How Did Deng Xiaoping’s Economic Policies Change Chinese Culture

Deng Xiaoping

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Deng Xiaoping?

Wade-Giles romanization of Deng Xiaoping’s name He was born on August 22, 1904, in Guang’an, Sichuan Province, China, and died on February 19, 1997 in Beijing. Teng Hsiao-p’ing was a Chinese communist leader who rose to prominence in the People’s Republic of China in the late 1970s and remained the country’s most powerful figure until his death in 1997. He renounced many conventional communist principles and sought to introduce aspects of the free-enterprise system and other changes into the Chinese economy, which was met with resistance.

Early life and career until the Cultural Revolution

Originally from China, Deng studied in France (1920–24), where he became engaged in the communist movement, and in the Soviet Union (1925–26). Deng was the son of a landowner. When he eventually returned to China, he rose to become a prominent political and military organizer in the Jiangxi Soviet, a communist autonomous region in southwestern China that was founded by Mao Zedong in 1931 and governed by the Communist Party of China. Immediately following the eviction of the communists by Nationalist troops led by Chiang Kai-shek in 1934, Deng participated in the arduousLong March of the Chinese Communists (1934–35), which took them to a new stronghold in Shaanxiprovince, in northwestern China.

  • He died in Beijing on December 31, 1945, aged 86.
  • During the Chinese Civil War (1947–49), Deng served as the head commissar of the communists’ Second Field Army, which was led by Mao Zedong.
  • In 1952, he was summoned to Beijing, where he rose to the position of vice premier.
  • Deng Xiaoping was a significant policymaker in both international and domestic affairs beginning in the mid-1950s.
  • As a result, Deng came into growing confrontation with Mao, who emphasized egalitarian policies and revolutionary excitement as the keys to economic growth, in contrast to Deng’s emphasis on individual self-interest as the key to economic progress.
  • He was forced to resign from his high-ranking party and government positions somewhere between 1967 and 1969, following which he disappeared from the public eye.
  • In 1975, he was appointed vice-chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, a member of its Political Bureau (Politburo), and chief of the general staff.
  • Although Deng was reinstated to the leadership following Zhou’s death in January 1976, the Gang of Four, the pro-Mao radical elite during the Cultural Revolution, managed to remove Deng from his position once more.

Deng was not rehabilitated until after Mao’s death in September 1976 and the subsequent fall from power of the Gang of Four. This time, Deng had the approval of Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor to the leadership of China.

Rise to preeminence

Deng had returned to his high-ranking positions by July 1977. His rivalry with Hua for leadership of the party and the government soon became a source of contention. Deng’s superior political abilities and broad base of support quickly forced Hua to relinquish both the premiership and the leadership of the Communist Party of China in 1980–81 to Deng’s protégés. Zhao Ziyang was appointed premier of the government, and Hu Yaobang was appointed general secretary of the Communist Party of China; both men turned to Deng for leadership.

  1. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
  2. Deng Xiaoping implemented significant changes in practically every element of China’s political, economic, and social life through achieving agreement, compromising, and persuading others to do so.
  3. His economic policies, which included decentralized economic management as well as logical and adaptable long-term planning, contributed to the achievement of efficient and regulated economic growth.
  4. Deng emphasized the importance of individual responsibility in the making of economic decisions, the use of monetary incentives as a reward for industry and initiative, and the establishment of cadres of highly competent and well-educated technicians and managers to drive China’s growth.
  5. Regarding foreign affairs, Deng Xiaoping worked to increase China’s commercial and cultural relations with the West, while also opening Chinese companies to outside investment.
  6. His position in the CCP’s Central Military Commission, as chairman of the Central Military Commission, allowed him to retain influence over the armed forces.
  7. He also served as a vice-chairman of the Communist Party of China.

During his tenure as Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CCP), Deng stepped down from the Central Committee, surrendering his position on the Political Bureau and the dominating Standing Committee.

During the months of April to June 1989, Deng’s leadership was put to the test.

In the aftermath of Hu’s death in April 1989, a series of student demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square called for more political freedom and a more democratic government.

Zhao was succeeded as party head by Jiang Zemin, a more authoritarian figure to whom Deng ceded his presidency of the Military Commission in 1989.

Deng Xiaoping had stepped down from his official position in the communist leadership by then, but he still held the position of supreme leader in the party.

Deng requested that part of his organs be given, that his corpse be cremated, and that his ashes be dispersed at sea, and his wishes were carried out.


Following the tragic excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping restored internal stability and economic progress to the country. The People’s Republic of China benefited from his leadership by acquiring a quickly developing economy, higher standards of living, significantly increased personal and cultural freedoms, and growing linkages to the international economy. A somewhat authoritarian administration, firmly devoted to the CCP’s one-party control even as it depended on free-market processes to convert China into a developed country, was also left in place by Deng.


A significant incident occurred forty years ago that few people in the United States are aware of. What transpired on December 18, 1978, would nonetheless prove to be as geopolitically crucial for the twenty-first century as the fall of the Berlin Wall was for the twentieth century. The day Deng Xiaoping, who had only recently taken over as China’s new leader following the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, began a top-level conference that would set the country on a new course and irreversibly alter the outlines of world geopolitics was this day in history.

  1. Known formally as the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, this conference effectively brought the Chinese people’s decades-long suffering under Mao Zedong’s mismanagement and destructive campaigns to an end.
  2. The opening of diplomatic ties with the United States, which occurred almost simultaneously with the implementation of these new policies, marked the climax of diplomacy launched by President Richard M.
  3. Deng recognized that China needed to develop in order to prosper, and that this would necessitate a stable external environment that was friendly to foreign commerce and investment.
  4. In the wake of “reform and openness” and increased interaction with the international community, China has seen an extraordinary period of economic and social progress, which is unprecedented in human history.
  5. China now has one of the world’s greatest economies — by some measurements, it is the world’s largest economy — and it wields immense worldwide political clout, as well as a military that is continually strengthening.
  6. In 2018, at a time when China is experiencing the long-term advantages of Deng’s policies, the Chinese government looks to be moving away from some of the key policies that have made the nation so successful in the past.
  7. China has also abandoned Deng’s aversion to personality cults under Xi’s leadership, with fresh efforts in Beijing attempting to enhance Xi’s stature and extend his capacity to run the country forever.

Deng was always a Leninist at heart, despite his reforms, and he was convinced that China need the CCP to give leadership and avert instability.

Other commentators have claimed that China has neither universally embraced nor rejected the liberal international order that has played such an important role in aiding China’s emergence internationally.

Xi has also attempted to present himself as the defender of the existing order in the face of President Trump’s revisionism — a message that many at Davos were pleased to hear but which has not been reflected in China’s own actions to yet.

With respect to both the East and South China Seas, Xi has presided over an aggressive expansion of Chinese objectives as well as a greater willingness to accept conflict with China’s neighbors.

The economic slowdown in China and the consideration by its leaders of the ramifications of a more aggressive strategy toward China’s neighbors and toward the United States are sparking arguments among some of the country’s most powerful individuals and organizations.

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These are important challenges for both the United States and the greater Indo-Pacific region.

The world may witness the emergence of a new China if Xi continues to pursue his ambitions in the East and South China Seas and continues to consolidate CCP control over the Chinese economy.

Even as these concerns continue to echo across Beijing, it is critical to remember that China’s future direction is not predetermined and that its politics, while sometimes obscure to outside observers, continue to be quite relevant.

Abraham M.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. Prior to it, he worked as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asian Affairs.

Commanding Heights : Deng Xiaoping

When the French liner docked in Marseilles in December 1920, most of the group of Chinese students on board stood about dazed, confused, not knowing what to do. One, however, was immediately busy, organizing their luggage, arranging their disembarkation. The young man, just 16, was Deng Xiaoping, and he was already demonstrating the take-charge organizational skills that would make him the dominating figure in China 60 years later. In the last two decades of the 20th century, he would set his country on a course to create a capitalist economy within a communist political system and turn it into a major force in the global economy. This was remarkable in that he was 74 when he finally became the paramount leader and launched China on its era of reform. No less remarkable was the extraordinary resilience he displayed in the face of the enormous setbacks, challenges, deprivations, and falls from favor that preceded his final rise to power.Deng was the son of a prosperous landowner-turned-local-government official in the populous inland province of Sichuan. As a boy, he started in a traditional Confucian school, but then, amid the tumult and fragmentation that followed the Chinese Revolution of 1911, switched into a school equipped with both a more modern curriculum and links to France. That is how he came to be sent to France for further study. His education there proved to be spotty, and he held a number of jobs, working in a Renault plant and steel and rubber factories, and also doing time as a kitchen hand and as a fireman on a locomotive. He developed two lasting passions in France – one was for croissants; the other was for communism. The two were not totally unconnected: It was Ho Chi Minh, later the leader of North Vietnam, who would tell him where in Paris to get the best croissants.The spread of communism among the handful of Chinese students in Europe was inspired by the May 4 Movement in Beijing, which had erupted in Tiananmen Square on May 4, 1919, to protest the humiliation of foreign domination of China in the aftermath of the Versailles treaty. Communism became a powerful vehicle for Chinese nationalism. For Deng it became a vocation. One of his chief sponsors and mentors was Zhou Enlai, who had imbibed Marxism while a student in Japan, before moving to France and becoming a leader of the tiny Chinese communist movement in Europe. Years later Deng was to call Zhou “my elder brother,” and Zhou, as a good older brother, would shield Deng from the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. During their French student days, Zhou put Deng in charge of producing the communist newsletter, which led to his being jokingly granted a Ph.D. in mimeographing. In February 1926, the French raided the house where Deng lived, but they were too late. He had left for Moscow the day before.In Moscow, Deng studied at the University of the Toilers of the East and Sun Yat-sen University. These were the days when China’s Nationalists and Communists were collaborators and not yet enemies. Their shared objective was China’s modernization and renewal. The Comintern, Stalin’s international apparatus, was teaching the Nationalists how to construct a revolutionary party, and members of the Chinese Communist Party were also active Nationalists. Wealthy Nationalists were financing the training of young revolutionaries in Moscow who would restore China’s dignity. Among Deng’s fellow students was Chiang Ching-kno, son of the Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek. Much later, in the 1980s, the younger Chiang would succeed his father as president of Taiwan.Deng returned to China a convinced Communist, prepared to dedicate his life to the revolution. His organizational skills quickly carried him forward. By the age of 23 he was chief secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and then became an organizer in the countryside. China was in violent disarray. Warlords were battling for control of various regions, and the Nationalists’ alliance with the Communists broke down as they competed for power. The Communist Party itself was riven by deep factional splits that spilled over into bloodshed. Deng, following Zhou, allied himself with the faction led by Mao Zedong. At one point, Mao’s enemies within the Communist movement imprisoned and interrogated Deng, probably tortured him, and repeatedly tried to force him to recant political “crimes.” Deng was part of the Long March of 1934-35, the 6,000-mile trek that Mao led to escape the Nationalists. Over its harrowing course, the Communists were decimated. The march began with 90,000 Communist soldiers and ended with a paltry 5,000. Yet that experience was to provide the myths and cohesion that, within a decade and a half, would help to carry the Communists to victory and rule over all of China.The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 created the circumstances for the renewal of Communist power vis-à-vis the Nationalists. That war also turned Deng into a soldier. Once again his organizational talents brought him to the fore, first against the Japanese and then against the Nationalists after 1945. He became one of the most prominent military leaders; indeed, he played a key role in the Huai-Hai campaign, which broke the back of the Nationalists in 1949. This battle, which destroyed a Nationalist army of 500,000, is considered one of the most important land battles of the 20th century. Deng’s wartime role enhanced his credibility as a leader and established a network of relationships and connections that would bolster his political position and – at crucial times – protect him.During his wartime administration of the Taihang region, in Northwest China, Deng also laid out a set of pragmatic economic precepts that would prefigure his policies of the 1980s and the 1990s. Economic incentives were appropriate. “Some comrades say this is too much, but I don’t agree,” he told senior cadres during the war. “If they’ve acquired it through their own labor and not corruption it’s entirely appropriate. Those who are lazy and unenthusiastic should suffer.” Economic change should come gradually; people should feel the benefits directly. And – of critical importance – socialism depends upon proper organization and economic strength, and must be built upon “capitalist production.” In other words, capitalism was not the total enemy of socialism. But where Deng did not waver was in seeing the party as the necessary instrument of modernization.After the victory over the Nationalists in 1949 and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Deng emerged as one of the most senior leaders of the Communist Party. He became secretary general and number four in the hierarchy. When Mao led a delegation to Moscow in 1957, he pointed Deng out to Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, and said, “See that little man there? He’s highly intelligent and has a great future ahead of him.”Deng, for his part, remained deeply loyal to Mao, though he stood aside when Mao launched the Great Leap Forward. It was supposed to channel the enthusiasm of the “masses” so that China could do in 15 years what the capitalist nations had taken 150 years to accomplish – and to secure complete control over the countryside. Farmers throughout the country were herded into regimented communes, and backyard pig iron furnaces became the symbols of the Great Leap. As it turned out, however, it proved to be a great leap into disaster. Undertaken without any regard for fundamental economics, it did nothing to advance China’s economy. On the contrary, tens of millions of people died of starvation as agricultural and industrial production and internal trade – all totally disrupted – plummeted.Deng was one of the chief figures who had to pick up the pieces. Gradual investment was to replace mass mobilization; education and expertise were again to be respected. It was at this time that Deng, not known for his aphorisms, made his most famous statement: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice.” Although he himself would later say he was not sure exactly what he had meant, it was very clearly an affirmation of pragmatism in economic policy in the aftermath of the fanaticism of the Great Leap. It was also a phrase that would find resonance around the world.This pragmatism was held against him in the mid-1960s, when Mao launched the Cultural Revolution. Mao was deeply dissatisfied with the lack of ideological zeal in the country, and apparently very angry that he was no longer receiving the veneration due him as the paramount leader. Mao complained that Deng and his colleagues “had treated me like I was their dead parent at a funeral.” In revenge, Mao mobilized young people in a savage assault on the established order. The number-one target of the Cultural Revolution was the party. This was heresy to Deng. For him, the united Communist Party was the foundation of China’s regeneration. The chaos of the Cultural Revolution threatened everything he had devoted his life to since the early 1920s. Once offered a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book, the bible of the Cultural Revolution, Deng unceremoniously turned it away. For his part, Deng was attacked as a “capitalist roader” and subjected to intense abuse; he spent two years in solitary confinement. He and his wife were both put to work in a tractor repair plant. His son was paralyzed as a result of a physical assault by Red Guards. What saved Deng from even worse was the network he had established through the army and his personal camaraderie with his “elder brother,” Zhou Enlai.In the early 1970s, after the Cultural Revolution had run its course, he came back into the leadership. During his time in confinement, he had spent many hours pacing the courtyard, asking himself how modernization had failed and how it could be restored. Now he could put his hard-earned conclusions to work as he helped direct the economic recovery. He returned to the principles he had favored before – education and economic incentives rather than ideology and exhortation. But criticism mounted against Deng for bowing to capitalism, and once again, with Mao against him, he was stripped of power. The death of Zhou made Deng’s position very precarious, and he was forced to sign yet another self-criticism. He was portrayed as everything evil – from a counterrevolutionary to a “poisonous weed” who was trying to undermine the glorious revolution. But again his old comrades from the army shielded him.The death of Mao in 1976 liberated Deng. The “Gang of Four” (including Mao’s wife), who had masterminded the Cultural Revolution, were arrested; and Deng returned to the center of power. He immediately became engaged in the bitter struggles that followed Mao’s death. Hua Guofeng was Mao’s designated successor. “With you in charge, I’m at ease,” Mao had told Hua. Deng, however, challenged Hua, who was known as the “chief whateverist.” (“Whatever decisions Chairman Mao made, we resolutely support,” said Hua. “Whatever instructions Chairman Mao made, we will steadfastly abide by.”) If he was to have his moment, Deng realized, this was it. He carried out the battle against Hua with every resource available to him. By the end of 1978, Hua was out, and Deng emerged as China’s paramount leader. Yet again he was in the position of picking up the pieces. Out of them he would lay the foundations for China’s real great leap forward.In subsequent history, December 1978 has come to rank with 1911 – the Chinese Revolution – and 1949 – the Communist victory – as one of the great turning points in 20th-century Chinese history. The Third Plenum of the 11th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party assembled that month, and although a series of major decisions was made in the months before and after, the plenum encapsulated the fundamental decision: to reorient China toward the market.There was no grand plan, but rather certain practical steps. In their entirety, they reflected a break with Maoism. The shift bore Deng’s imprimatur. Whatever worked economically was more or less all right with him – as long as the party remained in control. Results were what counted. Deng wanted to create a wealthy and powerful China, not a utopian or messianic paradise. He was a nationalist, and communism and the party were the mechanisms by which to reach that objective. And behind it all was a straightforward decision. “I have two choices,” said Deng. “I can distribute poverty or I can distribute wealth.” He had seen enough of the former under Mao.FromCommanding Heightsby Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw. Copyright©1998 by Daniel A. Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw. Reprinted by permission of SimonSchuster, Inc., N.Y. back to top
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‘To get rich is glorious’: how Deng Xiaoping set China on a path to rule the world

Unknown to most Americans, a significant event occurred forty years ago today. But what transpired on December 18, 1978, would be as geopolitically crucial for the twenty-first century as the fall of the Berlin Wall was for the twentieth. The day Deng Xiaoping, who had only recently taken over as China’s new leader following the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, convened a top-level conference that would set the country on a new course and irreversibly alter the outlines of world geopolitics was this day in 1949.

  • Known formally as the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, this conference effectively brought the Chinese people’s decades-long suffering under Mao Zedong’s mismanagement and destructive campaigns to a close.
  • With these new policies came the almost simultaneous establishment of diplomatic ties with the United States, which marked the completion of diplomacy begun by President Richard M.
  • Deng recognized that China needed to develop in order to prosper, and that this would necessitate a stable external environment that was friendly to foreign commerce and investment.
  • In the wake of “reform and openness” and increased involvement with the international community, China has seen an unprecedented period of economic and social progress in the history of the world.
  • The question now is not whether or if China will ascend to become a great power, but rather how China will utilize its newly acquired strength.

The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, made it clear that he would continue to tighten Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controls over the economy and society, even as he praised Deng Xiaoping and highlighted the achievements of reform and opening on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Reform and Opening.

  • Other aspects of internal politics, however, continue to follow Deng’s lead — particularly when it comes to the necessity of preserving the Communist Party’s iron grip on power.
  • With this strong feeling of Leninism instilled in him by Deng Xi, the Chinese leader stressed that the party is essential to maintaining Chinese sovereignty and dealing with future unpredictability.
  • As a result, Beijing has opted to reject certain components of the existing system while accepting others, all in the name of furthering China’s national interests.
  • Furthermore, Xi has rescinded many of Deng’s choices to put China’s maritime conflicts on hold and to foster a stable external environment, opting instead to more assertively pursue China’s claims and face the volatility and danger that this will entail.
  • On artificial islands it has constructed within the Paracel and Spratly islands, China is continuing to build military outposts in the South China Sea.
  • Following the death of his father, Deng Xiaoping’s son, Deng Pufang, has called for a return to his father’s core goals, which include fixing China’s domestic economy and maintaining stability in the country’s foreign environment.
  • When it comes to foreign affairs, China’s domestic direction will have a significant influence.

This new China may be one that is not only ambitious and assertive, but also more willing to accept risk in its external environment and to explicitly challenge United States power in Asia Even as these concerns continue to echo across Beijing, it is critical to remember that China’s future direction is not predetermined and that its politics, though sometimes unclear to outside observers, continue to be quite relevant.

However, even as many in the United States have become increasingly cynical about the value of interaction with China, it is equally crucial to recognize that we are doing ourselves a disservice by remaining uninformed of China’s internal politics.

Denmark is the Director of the Asia Program. Prior to it, he worked as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asian affairs.

Deng’s rise, fall and rise again

The son of a landowner in the Chinese region of Sichuan, Deng grew up to be a devout Marxist-Leninist who rose through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party, becoming a harsh field commander and political commissar along the way. However, although Mao Zedong was victorious in a terrible revolutionary battle against the Nationalists, it was his former protege who catapulted a country with one-quarter of the world’s population into an unprecedented period of development. In 1958, Deng Xiaoping paid a visit to a plant in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Deng himself was a victim of one of these propaganda efforts.

After Zhou’s death in 1976, he was expelled for a second time.

Read more about culture, free expression, and commemorating Mao in Australia.

To get rich is glorious

There was no doubt that Deng Xiaoping was an authoritarian politician who felt that the Chinese Communist Party had total authority over the Chinese people. In 1989, he authorized the use of force against pro-democracy demonstrators on Tiananmen Square, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and the imprisonment of thousands more. His legacy will be forever tarnished as a result of this decision. The fullness of Deng’s contribution to his country’s transformation from economic laggard to contemporary superpower cannot be emphasized, even if the excesses of the Tienanmen crackdown are not excused.

  1. Deng Xiaoping’s extraordinary achievements are too numerous to list here.
  2. These are the dates: The Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, held in 1978, was the first time that Deng’s authority was demonstrated.
  3. More information may be found at: China’s Communist Party asserts that it has delivered wealth and equality to the country.
  4. 1980: Deng Xiaoping delivered a speech whose significance is frequently overlooked in historical assessments, in which he lay out the “Great Tasks” that China would have to face in the remaining two decades of the twentieth century and beyond.
  5. With the reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping, which included the de-collectivisation of agriculture and the emergence of an entrepreneurial business class, China was able to achieve this goal in a matter of months and years.
  6. As a result of the massacre, reformist leader Zhao Ziyang, who was also general secretary of the Communist Party and a former premier, was imprisoned and later expelled from the country.
  7. It is possible that historians will come to regard Deng’snanxunasnot just as his final act, but also as his most lasting contribution to China’s burgeoning power and influence.
  8. It is important to remember that China’s economy was roughly the same size as Italy’s in 1978, when all of this was taking place.
  9. China, on the other hand, has lifted 800 million people out of poverty during the same period.
  10. Of course, Deng did not accomplish all of this on his own, but he was willing to embrace what Mao had sought to suppress in his single-minded desire to maintain control over both the party and the nation.
  11. Deng’s various slogans, such as “to get rich is glorious,” captured the spirit of the time and, in fact, contributed to the full realization of the Chinese people’s potential.

Deng Xiaoping is widely regarded as the principal architect of China’s reform and opening-up policies in the modern era. Photograph by Shi Donghong for Associated Press

Biding its time no more

None of this suggests that Deng’s legacy will be untarnished, or that China’s burgeoning strength and influence will continue to grow unhindered in the years to come. The country’s ongoing economic change resembles a high-wire performance, as the country’s leadership attempts to keep its footing in a globe in flux and American influence recedes farther into the background. China’s economy is still far from reaching a plateau in which consumer demand acts as a buffer against the ups and downs of the country’s international export markets.

  • Deng Xiaoping, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, may have regarded the creation of a personality cult centered on him with disapproval.
  • Deng had emphasized the need of communal leadership in his address, knowing full well that unchecked authority corrupts.
  • But does it really give a damn?
  • It has been variably interpreted throughout the years as either a warning from Deng that China should refrain from using its weight as a bargaining chip or a technique by which Beijing quietly builds power without making it too clear that it is doing so.
  • Increasing Chinese strength may have been unavoidable, but it is questionable whether a wise Deng would have supported a policy that ran the danger of antagonizing most of the rest of the globe at this point in time.
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Three Chinese Leaders: Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping

Three Chinese Leaders: Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping Mao Zedong Mao Zedong (1893-1976) was one of the historic figures of the twentieth century. A founder of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), he played a major role in the establishment of the Red Army and the development of a defensible base area in Jiangxi province during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He consolidated his rule over the Party in the years after the Long March and directed overall strategy during the Sino-Japanese War and the civil war.

  • His reliance on the peasantry (a major departure from prevailing Soviet doctrine) and dependence on guerrilla warfare in the revolution were essential to the Communist triumph in China.
  • These included land reform, the collectivization of agriculture, and the spread of medical services.
  • In 1958 he advocated a self-reliant “Great Leap Forward” campaign in rural development.
  • During the early 1960s, Mao continued his restless challenge of what he perceived as new forms of domination (in his words, “revisionism,” or “capitalist restoration”).
  • Domestically, he became increasingly wary of his subordinates’ approach to development, fearing that it was fostering deep social and political inequalities.
  • The Cultural Revolution was successful in removing many who opposed his policies but led to serious disorder, forcing Mao to call in the military to restore order in 1967.
  • But Mao came to have doubts about Lin and soon challenged him politically.

In 1971 Lin was killed in a plane crash while fleeing China after an alleged assassination attempt on Mao.

It seemed for a while that the veterans, led by Deng Xiaoping, had won the day.

Mao chose the more centrist Hua Guofeng to carry on his vision.

His leadership, especially the Cultural Revolution initiative, has been hotly debated.

FromFocus on Asian Studies, Vol.

1 (New York: The Asia Society, 1984).

Reprinted with permission. Zhou EnlaiZhou Enlai (1898-1976) was, for decades, one of the most prominent and respected leaders of the Communist movement.

In 1920 he traveled to Europe on a work-study program in which he met a number of future CCP leaders.

He was in charge of labor union activity in Shanghai when Chiang Kaishek attacked the CCP in April 1927 and helped to plan the Nanchang Uprising against the Nationalists in August — the event now celebrated as the founding of the CCP’s Red Army.But Zhou was always most prominent during periods in which the CCP reached out to otherwise hostile political forces.

Once the Nationalists and CCP had formed a second united front to oppose Japanese imperialism, it was Zhou who headed the CCP liaison team.

General George Marshall.After the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, Zhou became premier of the Government Affairs (later State) Council and foreign minister.

He passed the foreign minister portfolio to Chen Yi in 1958 but continued to play an active role in foreign policy.Zhou supported Mao Zedong in the latter’s Cultural Revolution attack on the entrenched Party bureaucracy, and subsequently played a critical role in rebuilding political institutions and mediating numerous political quarrels.

Zhou welcomed President Nixon to China in February 1972, and signed the historic Shanghai Communiqué for the PRC.

Zhou was also a strong advocate of modernization, particularly at the Fourth National People’s Congress in January 1975.

In April 1976, the removal of memorial wreaths placed in Tiananmen Square in Zhou’s honor sparked riots that led to the second ousting of Deng Xiaoping.

His selected works were published in December 1980, and three years later a memorial room for him was established in Mao’s mausoleum.FromFocus on Asian Studies, Vol.

1 (New York: The Asia Society, 1984).

Reprinted with permission.|back to top| Deng Xiaoping Born in 1904, Deng Xiaoping (d.

He held prominent positions in the government in the 1950s and 1960s, but he was removed from office and imprisoned during the years of the Cultural Revolution, 1966-76.

Deng Xiaoping reemerged as China’s paramount leader shortly after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.Deng Xiaoping’s goal in 1976 was to set China back on the course of economic development that had been badly interrupted during the final years of Mao’s leadership.

He set the course of reform by dismantling the communes set up under Mao and replaced them with the Household Responsibility System (HRS), within which each household must be held accountable to the state for only what it agrees to produce, and is free to keep surplus output for private use.

Thus began China’s experiments with capitalist methods of production.

In general, he hoped to establish a social and political order governed by “rule by law, not by man.” Even after he had retired from his formal positions, Deng encouraged his aging comrades to follow this example.

When faced with demands for political reforms by students and citizens throughout China in 1989, Deng ordered the military to move in and clear Tiananmen Square, where they were demonstrating for greater freedom of speech and press, and greater accountability on the party of government.

Also unclear is how history will view the role and achievements of Deng Xiaoping in light of the events at Tiananmen Square.— By Catherine H. Keyser|back to top|

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