CHINA UNDER DENG XIAOPING
In his book Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China , Ezra F. Vogel wrote that under Deng China transformed from a country with an annual trade of barely $10 billion to one whose trade expanded 100-fold. During his early years, Deng pleaded with the United States to take a few hundred Chinese students. Since then, 1.4 million have gone to study overseas. More than any other world leader, Deng embraced globalization, allowing his country to benefit from it more than any other nation. He also set the basis for a world-shaking demographic transition -- by 2015, more than half of China's population will live in cities -- that will dwarf all the massive population shifts due to wars and uprisings in China's past. [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, September 9, 2011]
Ezra Vogel wrote in his biography of Deng Xiaoping: ‘Did any other leader in the 20th century do more to improve the lives of so many? Did any other 20th-century leader have such a large and lasting influence on world history?’ Vogel clearly believes that Deng - known in the West mostly for engineering the slaughter of protesters in the streets near Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 -- has been wronged by history. [Ibid]
The population of China exceeded one billion in 1982 when Deng was at the helm. After that the pace of reforms picked up. "I remember the week things changed," a woman from Canton told Theroux, "There was a speech by Deng. Everyone responded to it. the Chinese are experts at interpreting jargon, and they knew he was saying something significant. It was one particular week in 1984, and after that everything was different." [Source: "Riding the Iron Rooster" by Paul Theroux]
New Book: Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra F. Vogel (Belknap/Harvard University, 2011) For Reviews of This Book See Deng Xiaoping's Life
Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Life of Deng Xiaoping cbw.com ; CNN Profile cnn.com ; New York Times Obituary nytimes.com ; China Daily Profile chinadaily.com. ; Wikipedia article on Economic Reforms in China Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Special Economic Zones Wikipedia ; Library of Congress Info from the late 1980s lcweb2.loc.gov
Books Abour Deng Xiaoping: Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping by Richard Baum (1996, Princeton University Press); China After Deng Xiaoping: The Power Struggle in Beijing Since Tiananmen by Willy Wo-lap Lam (1995, P.A. Professional Consultants); Deng Xiaoping by Uli Franz (1988, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich); Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Revolution: A Political Biography by David S.G. Goodman (1994, Routledge); Deng Xiaoping: Chronicle of an Empire by Ruan Ming (1994, Westview Press); Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China by Richard Evans 1993, Hamish Hamilton); Deng Xiaoping: My Father by Deng Maomao (1995, Basic Books); Deng Xiaoping: Portrait of a Chinese Statesman edited by David Shambaugh (1995, Clarendon Paperbacks); The New Emperors: Mao and Deng—a Dual Biography by Harrison E. Salisbury (1992, HarperCollins); China in the Era of Deng Xiaoping: A Decade of Reform , Michael Ying-Mao Kau and Susan H. Marsh, eds., (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1993). Books about Modern China worth reading include The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence, China-Alive in a Bitter Sea by Fox Butterfield, To Get Rich is Glorious by Orville Schell, The New Emperors by Harrison Salisbury, Coming Alive-China After Mao by Roger Garside and The Dragon Wakes by Christopher Hibbert.
Links in this Website: DENG XIAOPING Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINA UNDER DENG XIAOPING Factsanddetails.com/China ; DENG XIAOPING’S ECONOMIC REFORMS Factsanddetails.com/China ;TIANANMEN SQUARE DEMONSTRATIONS Factsanddetails.com/China ; TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE Factsanddetails.com/China ; AFTERMATH AND LEGACY OF TIANANMEN SQUARE Factsanddetails.com/China ; DISSIDENTS, POLITICAL ACTIVISTS AND POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; DENG XIAOPING'S ECONOMIC REFORMS Factsanddetails.com/China ; ECONOMIC HISTORY AFTER DENG XIAOPING Factsanddetails.com/China
Deng Xiaoping Takes Control of China After Mao
After Mao's death, China opened up more. Many socialist programs were dismantled; China began withdrawing support from revolutionary groups around the globe; foreign tourists on special tours were allowed into China; the Shanghai Puppet theater was allowed to open its doors again; and lovers were again shown in films, although they discreetly did their kissing behind closed doors.
The most significant political move Mao made in his later years was in March 1973, when he reinstated Deng Xiaoping as vice premier, paving the way for his ascendancy after Mao's death. Even so, Hua Guofeng, Mao's colorless but loyal security chief, was Mao's chosen successor. He was a classic cadre who had hoped to run the economy with Soviet-style five year plans, emphasizing heavy industry, and communal agriculture. Shortly after Mao died Hua had the Gang of Four arrested. The jubilation following the incarceration of the Gang of Four and the popularity of the new ruling triumvirate (Hua Guofeng, Ye Jianying, and Li Xiannian, a temporary alliance of necessity) were succeeded by calls for the restoration to power of Deng Xiaoping and the elimination of leftist influence throughout the political system. By July 1977, at no small risk to undercutting Hua Guofeng's legitimacy as Mao's successor and seeming to contradict Mao's apparent will, the Central Committee exonerated Deng Xiaoping from responsibility for the Tiananmen Square incident. Deng admitted some shortcomings in the events of 1975, and finally, at a party Central Committee session, he resumed all the posts from which he had been removed in 1976. [Source: The Library of Congress]
Deng was restored to his official posts in July 1977 after being purged by Mao. His “reform and opening” policy was approved at the same party meeting in December 1978 in in which his rival Hua Guofeng was ousted. Orville Shell wrote in Newsweek, "Deng's resistance to pure ideology and his ability to moderate his political ambitions allowed him to survive so long at the center of power. He came to be known as xiao pingzi, or 'the little bottle,' a pun on his name that alluded both to his ability to bob up back up after each of the numerous purges he suffered and to his 4-foot-11-inch height."
After Mao's death on September 9, 1976, Mao's chosen successor, Hua Guofeng, called Deng back from internal exile to help him restore order and oust the Gang of Four. Deng and Hua battled each other for two years until Deng won enough support from other elite party members to oust Hua. When Deng emerged as China's de facto leader in 1978 he was 78. Ronald Reagan, the United States' oldest president, was 77 when he left office. Deng was advised by an inner circle called the Eight Immortals. Most of them like Deng were veteran Communist Party leaders purged during the Cultural Revolution and, under Deng, were given high government positions in the 1980s and 90s. The last of the Eight Immortals, Bo Yiho, died in 2007 at the age of 98.
Hua Guofeng was Mao’s successor and widely seen as bridge between the excesses of the Mao era and more pragmatic policies under Deng. "With you in charge, I am at ease,” Mao Zedong is supposed to have told Hua. Hua took power in September 1976 and lasted for two years, his power eroding during that time, until he was pushed out by Deng Xiaoping. He was forced out as Communist Party chairman in 1981 and slipped into obscurity. He died in 2008 at the age of 87.
Born into a poor family in 1921, Hua became a guerilla fighter in the Mao’s Communist movement at the age of 15. After the Communists came to power he held a number of post and took over as premier when Zou Enlai died, He was chosen after Mao’s death as a compromise candidate “who didn’t set off any alarm bells in any camp” according to one historian. . Mao is said to said, “With you in charge, I’m at ease.” After he took power Hua attempted to revive the economy, rebuild the education system and allow urban people banished to the countryside to return home and was given credit for holding he party together during a tumultuous transition.
The arrest of the Gang of Four took place under Hua but it unclear what role if any he had in it. Many think the decision to make the arrest was made by senior leaders in the military and internal security forces and Hua went along with their decision. It has been said one reason Hua was ousted was that he continued to espouse the ideology of the Cultural Revolution. Deng maneuvered to get Hua ousted because he was seen as an obstacle to reform. Hua was effectively stripped of his power at the party meeting in December 1978.
Battle Between Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping
The post-Mao political order was given its first vote of confidence at the Eleventh National Party Congress, held August 12- 18, 1977. Hua was confirmed as party chairman, and Ye Jianying, Deng Xiaoping, Li Xiannian, and Wang Dongxing were elected vice chairmen. The congress proclaimed the formal end of the Cultural Revolution, blamed it entirely on the Gang of Four, and reiterated that "the fundamental task of the party in the new historical period is to build China into a modern, powerful socialist country by the end of the twentieth century." Many contradictions still were apparent, however, in regard to the Maoist legacy and the possibility of future cultural revolutions. [Source: The Library of Congress]
“The new balance of power clearly was unsatisfactory to Deng, who sought genuine party reform and, soon after the National Party Congress, took the initiative to reorganize the bureaucracy and redirect policy. His longtime protege Hu Yaobang replaced Hua supporter Wang Dongxing as head of the CCP Organization Department. Educational reforms were instituted, and Cultural Revolution-era verdicts on literature, art, and intellectuals were overturned. The year 1978 proved a crucial one for the reformers. Differences among the two competing factions--that headed by Hua Guofeng (soon to be branded as a leftist) and that led by Deng and the more moderate figures--became readily apparent by the time the Fifth National People's Congress was held in February and March 1978. [Ibid]
“Serious disputes arose over the apparently disproportionate development of the national economy, the Hua forces calling for still more largescale projects that China could ill afford. In the face of substantive losses in leadership positions and policy decisions, the leftists sought to counterattack with calls for strict adherence to Mao Zedong Thought and the party line of class struggle. Rehabilitations of Deng's associates and others sympathetic to his reform plans were stepped up. Not only were many of those purged during the Cultural Revolution returned to power, but individuals who had fallen from favor as early as the mid-1950s were rehabilitated. It was a time of increased political activism by students, whose big-character posters attacking Deng's opponents--and even Mao himself--appeared with regularity. [Ibid]
Deng and Mao Communism
Mao was the great unifier of China. Deng was the man brought order to the world's most populous nation. This process of unification and order was a pattern that was repeated many times in Chinese history.
Deng tried by to abolish the Mao personality cult by declaring that Mao's influence on Chinese history was "70 percent positive and 30 percent negative." Deng added, "It is true that he made gross mistakes during the Cultural Revolution, but, if we judge his activities as a whole, his contributions to the Chinese Revolution far outweigh his mistakes."
Shortly after becoming the paramount leader of China, Deng called for the Chinese to "emancipate their minds." Thousands of people who had been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution were rehabilitated while Maoists were quietly removed from key positions of power. At the 1981 Party Congress, Deng labeled portraits as "feudal" and launched a "non-portrait-policy." In regard to his own mistakes, he said that a "large number of people" killed during the Anti-Rightist Campaign were "people who were made targets" and "actually good people."
Deng the General Manager
with Nixon and Carter In a review of Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra Vogel, John Pomfret of the Washington Post wrote, “When Deng finally returned to power for good in 1977, he avoided any direct criticism of the man who united China under the red flag of communism. Here again, Vogel provides great insight into how Deng succeeded in dismantling Maoism, liberating China's economy from the shackles of its ridiculous ideology and maintaining the man as a hero to the Chinese people. Deng did this, Vogel argues, because he believed that if he openly criticized Mao, it would threaten Communist Party rule. Deng thought that the party's aura of legitimacy must be preserved at all costs because only the party could save China. Deng's formula for success, as Vogel puts it, was simple: "Don't argue; try it. If it works, let it spread." [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, September 9, 2011]
Vogel calls Deng "the general manager" of China's latest revolution. As he pushed and pulled his country into the modern world, he was careful not to get out in front of the changes. He used younger officials such as Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang for that. (He ended up sacrificing both.) In fact, as Vogel reports, Deng wasn't even at the forefront of some of the most important political and economic moves - such as the 1976 arrest of the Gang of Four, including Mao's widow, Jiang Qing, and the decision to launch market-oriented special economic zones in the south that became hothouses for capitalist-style experimentation.
Vogel also provides enlightening details of Deng's efforts to use ties with the United States and Japan to China's advantage. While Mao opened China to the West as a way to counter the Soviet Union, Deng realized that American and Japanese technology, investment and knowledge would be keys to his country's advance. They were. Indeed, no nation has been more important to China's modernization than the United States - a fact that no Chinese official has ever acknowledged.
Vogel also has a skewed view of the events that forced Deng to reform China's economy,” Pomfret. According to him, Deng and his lieutenants, such as Wan Li, engineered the reforms. In reality, it seems that the Chinese people demanded them by, among other things, dismantling the commune system, and Deng and others were smart enough to get out of the way. Indeed, the Chinese people get short shrift in this book about China.
Deng Sayings and Slogans
Deng's most famous saying—"It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white—if it catches mice, it's a good cat"—was a reference to his lack of interest in Communist ideology. He originally made the statement in the 1950s and later it was embraced as a kind of justification for his economic reforms.
Deng's second most famous saying—"To get rich is glorious"—expressed his break from Maoist philosophy and his aim to make China a "modern, powerful socialist country" by creating a "socialist market economy."
In an apparent allusion to freedom and democracy, Deng said, “Open the windows, breath the fresh air and at the same time fight the flies and insects."
Deng came up with his share of number slogans. He encouraged the Chinese to abide by the "Five Talks" (politeness, civil behavior, morality, attention to social relation and practice of good hygiene) and practice the "Four Beauties" (beautiful language, beautiful behavior, beautiful heart and beautiful environment).
Four Modernizations of Den Xiaoping
The culmination of Deng Xiaoping's re-ascent to power and the start in earnest of political, economic, social, and cultural reforms were achieved at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh National Party Congress Central Committee in December 1978. The Third Plenum is considered a major turning point in modern Chinese political history. "Left" mistakes committed before and during the Cultural Revolution were "corrected," and the "two whatevers" policy ("support whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made and follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave") was repudiated. The classic party line calling for protracted class struggle was officially exchanged for one promoting the Four Modernizations. In the future, the attainment of economic goals would be the measure of the success or failure of policies and individual leadership; in other words, economics, not politics, was in command. To effect such a broad policy redirection, Deng placed key allies on the Political Bureau (including Chen Yun as an additional vice chairman and Hu Yaobang as a member) while positioning Hu Yaobang as secretary general of the CCP and head of the party's Propaganda Department. Although assessments of the Cultural Revolution and Mao were deferred, a decision was announced on "historical questions left over from an earlier period." The 1976 Tiananmen Square incident, the 1959 removal of Peng Dehuai, and other now infamous political machinations were reversed in favor of the new leadership. New agricultural policies intended to loosen political restrictions on peasants and allow them to produce more on their own initiative were approved. [Source: The Library of Congress]
“At the plenum, party Vice Chairman Ye Jianying pointed out the achievements of the CCP while admitting that the leadership had made serious political errors affecting the people. Furthermore, Ye declared the Cultural Revolution "an appalling catastrophe" and "the most severe setback to [the] socialist cause since ." Although Mao was not specifically blamed, there was no doubt about his share of responsibility. The plenum also marked official acceptance of a new ideological line that called for "seeking truth from facts" and of other elements of Deng Xiaoping's thinking. A further setback for Hua was the approval of the resignations of other leftists from leading party and state posts. In the months following the plenum, a party rectification campaign ensued, replete with a purge of party members whose political credentials were largely achieved as a result of the Cultural Revolution. The campaign went beyond the civilian ranks of the CCP, extending to party members in the PLA as well. [Ibid]
China in the 1980s
Mark Kitto wrote in Prospect Magazine, “When I arrived in Beijing for the second year of my Chinese degree course, from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), China was communist. Compared to the west, it was backward. There were few cars on the streets, thousands of bicycles, scant streetlights, and countless donkey carts that moved at the ideal speed for students to clamber on board for a ride back to our dormitories. My “responsible teacher” (a cross between a housemistress and a parole officer) was a fearsome former Red Guard nicknamed Dragon Hou. The basic necessities of daily life: food, drink, clothes and a bicycle, cost peanuts. We lived like kings—or we would have if there had been anything regal to spend our money on. But there wasn’t. One shop, the downtown Friendship Store, sold coffee in tins. [Source: Mark Kitto, Prospect Magazine, August 8, 2012]
"We had the time of our lives, as students do, but it isn’t the pranks and adventures I remember most fondly, not from my current viewpoint, the top of a mountain called Moganshan, 100 miles west of Shanghai, where I have lived for the past seven years. If I had to choose one word to describe China in the mid-1980s it would be optimistic. A free market of sorts was in its early stages. With it came the first inflation China had experienced in 35 years. People were actually excited by that. It was a sign of progress, and a promise of more to come. Underscoring the optimism was a sense of social obligation for which communism was at least in part responsible, generating either the fantasy that one really could be a selfless socialist, or unity in the face of the reality that there was no such thing. [Ibid]
"In 1949 Mao had declared from the top of Tiananmen gate in Beijing: “The Chinese people have stood up.” In the mid-1980s, at long last, they were learning to walk and talk. One night in January 1987 I watched them, chanting and singing as they marched along snow-covered streets from the university quarter towards Tiananmen Square. It was the first of many student demonstrations that would lead to the infamous “incident” in June 1989. [Ibid]
"One man was largely responsible for the optimism of those heady days: Deng Xiaoping, rightly known as the architect of modern China. Deng made China what it is today. He also ordered the tanks into Beijing in 1989, of course, and there left a legacy that will haunt the Chinese Communist Party to its dying day. That “incident,” as the Chinese call it—when they have to, which is seldom since the Party has done such a thorough job of deleting it from public memory—coincided with my final exams. My classmates and I wondered if we had spent four years of our lives learning a language for nothing. [Ibid]
"It did not take long for Deng to put his country back on the road he had chosen. He persuaded the world that it would be beneficial to forgive him for the Tiananmen “incident” and engage with China, rather than treating her like a pariah. He also came up with a plan to ensure nothing similar happened again, at least on his watch. The world obliged and the Chinese people took what he offered. Both have benefited financially . [Ibid]
Visiting China in 1984
On visiting China in 1984, James Mann of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “ We were taken to the place that would serve as our home for the next few days: the recently-completed Great Wall Hotel. For decades, visitors to Beijing had stayed in older hotels like the Beijing, Minzu and Qianmen. Now, the city had started to build a series of next-generation hotels: the Great Wall Hotel had followed on the Jianguo, to be followed next by the Jinglun (Beijing-Toronto). Our hotel seemed almost as if it were designed for the same purpose as the world-famous fortifications for which it was named: to help keep foreigners out of China. Its cavernous new restaurants tried to serve an array of Western dishes – club sandwiches, French fries, spaghetti Bolognese – none of which tasted quite right and all of which left one yearning for real food, whether Chinese or Western. [Source: James Mann, hkej.com, April 30, 2011]
“In fact, the strongest impression I had throughout the trip was of how different China seemed from what was being written about it. By the mid-1980s, American newspapers and magazines were full of stories about how China was changing: new hotels, discos, golf courses. The stories were not inaccurate, but once there, you saw how marginal and fragile the innovations still were, how they were surrounded and overwhelmed by a different China that didn’t appear as much in the American press coverage, a China that still remained untouched by westernization.” [Ibid]
“Several months later, I flew off to Beijing again, this time with family and unpacked with them, first in the Jianguo and then in Jianguomenwai. Almost immediately after arrival, I was told there the Foreign Ministry was offering a trip for reporters to visit Qinghai, which until that time had been a province closed to the outside world. One Australian diplomatic delegation had been allowed into Qinghai a couple of years earlier, and had reported seeing huge labor-camp facilities. I signed on. This was, in the 1980s, one of the last of the large Foreign Ministry–organized trips; China was opening up, allowing more latitude for reporters to travel on their own.” [Ibid]
“En route, we stopped for a day in Lanzhou, where we were taken to a large chemical factory. The air was smoky and foul. When it came time for questions, one of my colleagues asked for data on occupational safety and pulmonary diseases. The answer came back in a phraseology I had never heard before, but which would soon be familiar: “Since the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee…” [Ibid]
“Once in Qinghai, we were taken to a factory that made carpets in Xining, the capital city. On them, we noticed, were labels that said, “Made in Shanghai.” Later that day, leaving the city on a bus, we could see on the outskirts a large institution surrounded by high walls, with armed guards in a watchtower.” On the way home, as we were passing it again, a couple of photographers called out, “Stop the bus, I’m feeling sick.” Once outside, they began to shoot pictures. Suddenly, a local official supposedly from the Qinghai Waiban turned out to be a security official grabbing cameras. “This is not a labor camp,” Chinese officials told us. “It’s a hydroelectric factory.” [Ibid]
“The following day, we were taken to the spacious, ornate Tibetan monastery at Taer Si, southwest of Xining. Chinese officials brought out a Living Buddha who had been released from prison a few years earlier. We asked him how long he had he been in jail—since the Cultural Revolution, we supposed? No, since 1958, since the time of the “crushing of the Tibetan rebellion,” he said. He had been accused of “counterrevolutionary crimes,” he said, and sent off to join the program of “laodong gaizao” (more commonly known as “laogai,” reform through labor). And where had he been imprisoned? “Up the road, at the place they call the hydroelectric factory,” he answered, knowing nothing of the incident the day before. “ [Ibid]
“In front of thirty people, a Qinghai provincial official whispered to the Foreign Ministry-assigned translator to say he had said that the institution in question was now a hydroelectric factory, not a labor camp. The Foreign Ministry translator refused. “He did not say that,” he retorted, summoning forth both the spirit of apolitical professionalism that often prevailed in the mid-1980s and also the disdain of a Shanghai-born, Beijing-living Foreign Ministry official for the uncouth crudity of the backwards provincials...After the isolation of the Reagan trip and the glitzy emptiness of the new Beijing hotels, I now felt that I had finally arrived in China itself, a place full of stories a reporter only rarely found out about and complexities an outsider struggled to understand.” [Ibid]
Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang in 1984
“ I met Deng Xiaoping. Sort of,” Mann wrote. “It wasn’t exactly a one-on-one. I was standing on a row of bleachers, along with many other properly-badged journos, in the room where Deng welcomed the Reagans, husband and wife. Deng wandered over to the bleachers to say hello. What was my first impression? To borrow the immortal words of Richard Nixon at the Great Wall (“It really is a great wall”), Deng really was very short. He also, it turned out, had an impish sense of humor: In front of the assembled reporters, he turned to Nancy Reagan and told her that her visit was too short. “I hope you’ll come the next time and leave the president home,” he said. “You come just by yourself, independently…We won’t maltreat you.” Reagan had spent many decades and two careers handling that sort of patter. “It sounds like I’m the one being maltreated,” he replied genially. Was this a Sino-American summit, or Jack Benny and Bob Hope? No time to find out further: The reporters were ushered out before the conversation could turn more serious.” [Source: James Mann, hkej.com, April 30, 2011]
That brief first glimpse of Deng was also my last one. Over the following years, living in and covering China, I never saw Deng again. In Beijing, I would be able to see once in a while the color of Hu Yaobang’s [brown] socks, and the cut of Zhao Ziyang’s many [grey] suits. More often, though, reporters in that era saw only the more limited wardrobe of the loyal, repeat-the-line Foreign Ministry press spokesman, Li Zhaoxing (?) (whose haberdashery would improve over the following decades as he rose through the ranks to become foreign minister). [Ibid]
“At the opening banquet, in which Zhao hosted Reagan, I was seated so far from the head table it would have taken a ten-minute bicycle ride to get there. The People’s Liberation Army played “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Home on the Range.” The Chinese dinner partner on my right looked sufficiently distinguished to run a ministry, but turned out to be a telex operator. [Ibid]
Image Sources: Wikicommons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated December 2012