Collection of speeches by Deng Xiao Ping

Deng Xiao Ping was the paramount leader of China that is responsible for the opening up as well as economic reform policies that have been responsible for the re-emergence of China. According to Lee Kuan Yew , the most impressive statesman he has ever met was Deng Xiao Ping. His speeches made interesting readings of events happening around him then, his long-term strategic views on paths China need to embark  and also provide insights into the worldviews of this great man.

The turmoil in Thailand made me think about the Tian An Men incidence in 1989 – about the events leading to the fateful day. The following collections of speeches were made at around the time of the Tian An Men incidence (June 4 1989).



In China the overriding need is for stability. Without a stable environment, we can accomplish nothing and may even lose what we have gained.

 China must adhere to the policies of reform and opening to the outside world: there lies our hope of solving our problems. But it is impossible to carry out reform without a stable political environment. The Chinese people, on the whole, support the policy of reform, and the overwhelming majority of students favour stability, because they know that without it reform and opening to the outside would be out of the question.

We have correctly evaluated historical events since the founding of the People’s Republic and in particular the mistakes of the “cultural revolution”. We have also evaluated Comrade Mao Zedong’s place in history and Mao Zedong Thought. We must not be too critical of the mistakes Mao made in his later years. To negate the contributions of such a great historical figure would mean to deny all our achievements during an important period of the country’s history. That would lead to ideological confusion and political instability.

China is now in a period when it must concentrate on economic development. If we seek the forms of democracy, we won’t achieve the substance, and we won’t develop the economy either, but will only throw the country into turmoil and undermine the people’s unity. We have had profound experience of this, because we went through the “cultural revolution” and witnessed the disasters it brought upon the country. China has a huge population; if some people demonstrated today and others tomorrow, there would be a demonstration 365 days a year. In that case, we would have no time to develop our economy. We shall develop socialist democracy, but it would be no good for us to act in haste. And it would be even worse for us to adopt Western-style democracy. If we conducted multiparty elections among one billion people, the country would be thrown into the chaos of an all-out civil war as during the “cultural revolution”. Civil war does not necessarily require rifles and artillery; people can wage fierce battles just with fist and clubs. Democracy is our goal, but we must keep the country stable.

(Excerpt from a talk with President George Bush of the United States.)



The key to our success in modernization, the reform and the opening to the outside is stability. I have told President Bush that in China the overriding need is for stability. We must counter any forces that threaten stability, not yielding to them or even making any concessions. We should not be concerned about what foreigners say; let them say what they please. They’ll only abuse us for being unenlightened. We have been berated for so many years! But have we been toppled by their criticisms? Anyway, the affairs of Chinese should be handled by the Chinese themselves. China cannot afford any disorder: we should explain that plainly and repeatedly. If we don’t, we shall appear to be in the wrong. We have to send out a signal that China will tolerate no disturbances.

 When we size up the situation, we should bear in mind that the workers, peasants and intellectuals and the great majority of students support the reform. Tell our comrades to keep calm when problems arise.

Taiwan’s concentrated attack on the Four Cardinal Principles shows precisely that we cannot discard them. Without them, China would be in turmoil.  

Of course, we should be careful about the means we use to control the situation. In particular, we should lose no time in drawing up laws and statutes, including ones to regulate assembly, association, demonstration, and the press and publishing. Anything that violates the law must be suppressed. China cannot allow people to demonstrate whenever they please, because if there were a demonstration 365 days a year, nothing could be accomplished, and no foreign investment would come into the country. Tightening our control in this area will not deter foreign businessmen from investing in China; on the contrary, it will reassure them. We should make it clear at home and abroad that the purpose of tightening control is to maintain stability and to facilitate the reform, the opening to the outside and the drive for modernization.

Over the last ten years our greatest mistake has been our failure in education. We haven’t paid enough attention to the political and ideological education of young people and to the expansion of education. Intellectuals have not been given enough pay and other benefits. We have to solve these problems.

(Excerpt from a talk with leading members of the CPC Central Committee.)



K Chew note: Gorbachev was visiting Beijing in the days prior to the crackdown on demonstrators.

The Chinese people sincerely hope that Sino-Soviet relations will improve. I suggest that we take this opportunity to declare that henceforth our relations will return to normal.

For many years there has been a question of how to understand Marxism and socialism. From the first Moscow talks in 1957 [among delegations from the Soviet Union, China and Hungary] through the first half of the 1960s, bitter disputes went on between our two parties. I was one of the persons involved and played no small role in those disputes. Now, looking back on more than 20 years of practice, we can see that there was a lot of empty talk on both sides. Nobody was clear about exactly what changes had taken place over the century since Marx’s death or about how to understand and develop Marxism in light of those changes. We cannot expect Marx to provide ready answers to questions that arise a hundred or several hundred years after his death, nor can we ask Lenin to give answers to questions that arise fifty or a hundred years after his death. A true Marxist-Leninist must understand, carry on and develop Marxism-Leninism in light of the current situation.

The world changes every day, and modern science and technology in particular develop rapidly. A year today is the equivalent of several decades, a century or even a longer period in ancient times. Anyone who fails to carry Marxism forward with new thinking and a new viewpoint is not a true Marxist.

Lenin was a true and great Marxist because it was not books that enabled him to find the revolutionary road and to accomplish the October socialist revolution in backward Russia but realities, logic, philosophical thinking and communist ideals. It was not by reading the works of Marx and Lenin that the great Marxist-Leninist Mao Zedong learned how to accomplish the new-democratic revolution in backward China. Could Marx predict that the October Revolution would take place in backward Russia? Could Lenin foresee that the Chinese revolutionaries would win by encircling the cities from the countryside?

Then, the question was how to make revolution. But the same is true when the question is how to build up a country. After a successful revolution each country must build socialism according to its own conditions. There are not and cannot be fixed models. Sticking to conventions can only lead to backwardness or even failure.

The purpose of our meeting is to put the past behind us and open up a new era. By putting the past behind us I mean ceasing to talk about it and focusing on the future. However, I am afraid it is no good for us just to keep silent about the past. We have to make our views clear. I should like to tell you what the Chinese people and the Chinese Party think about the past. You don’t have to respond to these views or debate them. Let each of us talk about our own. That will help us advance on a more solid basis. I shall only mention two things in brief. First, how China suffered from the oppression of the big powers before liberation; second, where, as the Chinese see it, the threats have come from in recent decades — specifically, during the last 30 years.  

About the first question. Starting from the Opium War, because of the corruption of the Qing Dynasty, China was subjected to aggression and enslavement by foreign powers and reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal status. Altogether, about a dozen powers bullied China, chief among them being Britain. And before Britain, Portugal had compelled China to lease its territory of Macao. The countries that took greatest advantage of China were Japan and czarist Russia — and at certain times and concerning certain questions, the Soviet Union.

At various times Japan occupied many parts of our country; for 50 years it occupied Taiwan. It carved spheres of influence out of China. In the North in particular, there were Japanese concessions in many big cities. In 1931 Japan started a war of aggression against China, and in 1932 it set up the Manchukuo regime in the Northeast. In 1937 it launched a full-scale war that lasted for eight years. Thanks to China’s resistance, to the joint struggle waged by the antifascist Allies and to the dispatch of Soviet troops to the Northeast, in the end Japan was totally defeated. Japan had inflicted untold damage upon China. Tens of millions of Chinese had died in the war, not to mention other losses. If we were to settle historical accounts, it would be Japan that would owe China the most. Since Japan was defeated, China recovered all the places that had been occupied. The only outstanding issue is Senkaku Shoto [Diaoyu Island], a small and uninhabited island. When I visited Japan, reporters asked me about it. I replied that the problem could be shelved and that if our generation could not solve it, the next generation would be wiser and would eventually find a way to do so. To settle similar disputes, we proposed later that such places be exploited jointly.

The other country that took greatest advantage of China was czarist Russia and later the Soviet Union. Through unequal treaties, Russia seized more than 1.5 million square kilometres of Chinese territory.

China was also encroached upon after the October Revolution. For instance, in 1929 the Soviet Union seized the Heixiazi Islands. When victory in the Second World War was in sight the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union signed in Yalta a secret agreement dividing up spheres of influence among them, greatly to the detriment of China’s interests. That was the period under Stalin. At that time, the Kuomintang government signed a pact with the Soviet Union recognizing the arrangements of the Yalta agreement.

After the People’s Republic of China was founded, it signed a new treaty with the Soviet Union. It established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of Mongolia and reached an agreement on the boundaries between the two countries. Later, China held negotiations on borders with the Soviet Union, asking the Soviet Union to recognize the historical fact that the treaties between czarist Russia and the Qing Dynasty rulers were unequal and had permitted Russia to encroach upon Chinese territory. Nevertheless, since more than 1.5 million square kilometres were seized under the treaties, and in view of past and present realities, we are still willing to settle border disputes on the basis of those treaties.

That was the first question. Spelling out our views may help solve problems left over by history and clarify what I mean by opening up a new era. So it was worth mentioning.

Now about the second question. Where have the threats come from in recent decades? Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the Chinese revolution triumphed, and the People’s Republic was founded. China did not invade other countries and posed no threat to them, but other countries threatened China. Our country was poor and weak but independent. Where did the major threats come from? As soon as it was founded, the PRC was confronted with this question. At that time, the threat came from the United States. Glaring examples were the Korean War and then the Vietnam War. In the first, China sent volunteers to fight the United States. The Soviet Union supplied us with arms but asked us to pay for them, albeit at half price. In the following years Sino-Soviet relations deteriorated, and China was beset with economic difficulties. But no matter how serious our difficulties were, we were determined to pay that bill, and we paid it two years ahead of time.  

In the 1960s the Soviet Union strengthened its military presence all along the borders between China and the Soviet Union and Mongolia. The number of missiles was increased to one third of the Soviet Union’s total, and troops were increased to one million, including those sent to Mongolia. Where was the threat coming from? Naturally, China drew its conclusions. In 1963 I led a delegation to Moscow. The negotiations broke down. I should say that starting from the mid-1960s, our relations deteriorated to the point where they were practically broken off. I don’t mean it was because of the ideological disputes; we no longer think that everything we said at that time was right. The basic problem was that the Chinese were not treated as equals and felt humiliated. However, we have never forgotten that in the period of our First Five-Year Plan the Soviet Union helped us lay an industrial foundation.

If I have talked about these questions at length, it is in order to put the past behind us. We want the Soviet comrades to understand our view of the past and to know what was on our minds then. Now that we have reviewed the history, we should forget about it. That is one thing that has already been achieved by our meeting. Now that I have said what I had to say, that’s the end of it. The past is past.

More contacts are being made between our two countries. After bilateral relations are normalized, our exchanges will increase in depth and scope. I have an important suggestion to make in this regard: we should do more practical things and indulge in less empty talk.

There is only one thing I shall have left undone in my lifetime: the resolution of the Taiwan question. I’m afraid I shall not live to see it. In foreign affairs, I have participated in accomplishing the following: we have readjusted our relations with Japan, the United States and the Soviet Union, and we have decided to recover Hong Kong and have reached an agreement with Britain in that regard. In domestic affairs, I have participated in defining the Party’s basic line, deciding to concentrate on modernization, adopting the policies of reform and opening China to the rest of the world and upholding the Four Cardinal Principles. What I have not accomplished is to abolish the system of life tenure in office; that is an important problem concerning the system of leadership.

(Excerpt from a talk with Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.)



 K Chew note: Speech made after the crackdown on 4 June

Comrades, you have been having a hard time!

First of all, I should like to express my deep grief over the officers and men of the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Armed Police Force and the Public Security Police who have died heroically in this struggle. I also want to express my sincere solicitude for the thousands of PLA, PAPF and PSP officers and men who have been wounded. I extend my cordial greetings to all your officers and men who have taken part in the struggle.

Let us stand in silent tribute to the martyrs!

On this occasion I should like to say a few words.  

This disturbance would have occurred sooner or later. It was determined by both the international environment and the domestic environment. It was bound to occur, whether one wished it or not; the only question was the time and the scale. That it has occurred now is to our advantage, especially because we have a large number of veteran comrades who are still in good health. They have experienced many disturbances and understand the possible consequences of different ways of dealing with them. They support the resolute action taken against the rebellion. Some comrades do not understand that action for the time being, but they will come to understand it and support the decision of the central authorities.

The April 26th editorial in People’s Daily described the disturbance as turmoil. The word "turmoil" is quite appropriate. It is this word that some people object to and are trying to change. But facts show that the assessment is accurate. It was also inevitable that the turmoil should grow into a counter-revolutionary rebellion. We have a number of veteran comrades, including some in the army, who are still in good health, and a number of other leading cadres who joined the revolutionary ranks in different periods. It has therefore been relatively easy to cope with the incident that has broken out.

The major difficulty in handling it has been that we have never encountered a situation in which a handful of bad people were mingled with so many young students and crowds of onlookers. Since for the moment we were not able to distinguish between innocent and guilty, we could scarcely take the actions that should have been taken. Without the support of so many veteran Party comrades, it would have been hard even to determine the nature of the incident. Some comrades did not understand its nature and thought that we were only dealing with the masses. In fact, we were dealing not only with people who merely could not distinguish between right and wrong, but also with a number of rebels and many persons who were the dregs of society. They tried to subvert our state and our Party. This is the crux of the matter. If we don’t understand this fundamental question, we shall not be clear about the nature of the incident. I believe that if we work at it, we can win the support of the overwhelming majority of Party comrades for our assessment of the nature of the incident and for the measures we have taken to cope with it.

The nature of the incident should have been obvious from the very beginning. The handful of bad people had two basic slogans: overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system. Their goal was to establish a bourgeois republic, an out-and-out vassal of the West. Naturally, we accepted the people’s demand for a fight against corruption. We even had to accept as well-intentioned the so-called anti-corruption slogans of the bad individuals. Of course, these slogans were simply pretexts, and their ultimate aim was to overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system.

Why is it that in the course of putting down the rebellion so many of our comrades laid down their lives or were wounded or robbed of their arms? This too was also because good people and bad were mixed together, so that we could not take the resolute measures we should have taken. Handling this incident was a very rigorous political test for our army. Facts have shown that the PLA men passed the test. If our tanks had pressed forward through the crowd, it would have made it impossible for the entire nation to distinguish between right and wrong. I therefore want to express our thanks to the PLA officers and men for their handling of the rebellion. The losses were grievous, but they helped win the people’s sympathy and support and enabled those who had confused right and wrong to change their point of view. From those losses everyone could tell what the PLA men were like, whether they turned Tian’anmen into a sea of blood and who it was that shed blood. Once these questions had been clarified, we were able to gain the initiative. It is a grievous thing that many comrades laid down their lives, but if people analyse the course of the incident objectively, they will have to admit that the PLA is the people’s own army. This loss of life will also help the people understand the methods we used in the struggle. From now on, whenever the PLA takes measures to cope with a problem it encounters, it will be able to win the people’s support. By the way, the men should not allow their weapons to be seized again.

In short, this was a test and you passed it. There are not many veteran comrades in the army, and most of the soldiers are only 18 or 20, but they are still true men of the people’s army. When their lives were in danger, they stood firm, not forgetting the people, the Party’s teachings or the interests of the country. They went to their death unflinchingly, worthy of the title of heroes. By passing the test, I mean that the army remained an army of the people. The army passed the test in respect to its nature as a people’s army. It retains the traditions of our former Red Army. It was by no means easy to pass this genuine political test, a test of life and death! This shows that the people’s army is truly a great wall of steel guarding the Party and the country. It shows that no matter how great the losses it suffers, and no matter how one generation of leaders is replaced by another, our army will always be an army led by the Party, the defender of the country, the guardian of socialism, the protector of the people’s interests, and the most beloved men. At the same time, we should never forget how ruthless our enemies are. We should not grant them the least forgiveness.

The outbreak of this incident has given us much food for thought, impelling us to reflect soberly on the past and the future. Perhaps this bad thing will enable us to progress more steadily and even faster than before in carrying out the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, to correct our errors more quickly and give better play to our advantages. Today I can’t elaborate on a wide range of topics, but I should like to put forward some questions to be discussed.

The first question is whether the line, principles and policies formulated at the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, and our "three-stage" development strategy are correct. Has their correctness been placed in doubt because of the turmoil? Is our goal a "Left" one? Will it remain our goal in future? Clear-cut, positive replies must be given to these important questions. Our first goal of doubling the gross national product has been achieved. Our second goal of doubling the GNP again is to be achieved in 12 years. In another 50 years, we are to reach the level of the moderately developed countries. That is our strategic goal. In this connection, I believe our judgement of our capabilities is not a "Left" one, and the goal we have set is not overambitious. Therefore, as the reply to the first question, we should say that the strategic goal we have set cannot be described as unattainable, at least not now. It will be something wonderful for a country with a population of 1.5 billion to reach the level of a moderately developed country in 61 years. We should be able to attain that goal. We should not say that we have set a wrong strategic goal merely because of the recent incident.

The second question is whether the "one central task, two basic points" proposition set forth at the Party’s Thirteenth National Congress is correct. In particular, are the two basic points, namely, keeping to the Four Cardinal Principles and carrying out the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, wrong or not? I have been pondering over this question recently. I think they are not wrong. It is not wrong to keep to the Four Cardinal Principles. If we have made a mistake, it is that we have not kept to them consistently enough and inculcated them as basic ideas in the people, the students and all cadres and Party members. The recent incident was in the nature of a conflict between bourgeois liberalization and adherence to the Four Cardinal Principles. True, we have talked about keeping to those principles, conducting ideological and political work and combating bourgeois liberalization and mental pollution. But we have not talked about those things consistently, and there has been no action or even any mention of the need for action. The mistake was not in the principles themselves, but in the failure to keep to them consistently enough and to do a good job in education and in ideological and political work.

In my speech at the People’s Political Consultative Conference on New Year’s Day, 1980, I explained the need to do four things, including to maintain the pioneering spirit of hard struggle. We have a tradition of hard struggle. During the next 60 or 70 years we must make a point of educating people about the need for hard work and plain living. The more developed our country is, the more we need the pioneering spirit of hard struggle. Encouraging such a spirit will also help to overcome corruption. After the founding of the People’s Republic, we always stressed the need to build the country in that spirit. Later, when things were slightly better, we encouraged a high level of consumption, which resulted in the spread of extravagance and waste in every field. It was because of this, because of our poor performance in ideological and political work and because of the incomplete legal system, that violations of the law and discipline, corrupt practices, etc. all came about. I have told foreign guests that during the last ten years our biggest mistake was made in the field of education, primarily in ideological and political education — not just of students but of the people in general. We didn’t tell them enough about the need for hard struggle, about what China was like in the old days and what kind of a country it was to become. That was a serious error on our part.

What about the other basic point, keeping to the policies of reform and opening to the outside world? Is that wrong or not? It is not wrong. How could we have achieved the success we have today without the reform and the open policy? During the last ten years living standards have been raised considerably, or in other words, our economy has been raised to a new stage. Although there have been inflation and other problems, we must not underestimate our achievements in the past decade. Naturally, in the process of carrying out these policies many bad influences from the West are making themselves felt in China. We have never underestimated this trend. In the early 1980s when the special economic zones were established, I told comrades in Guangdong that we should do two types of work at the same time: carrying out the policies of reform and opening on the one hand and cracking down on economic crime on the other, including ideological and political work. This conforms to the doctrine that everything has two aspects. But looking back over the years, we can see obvious deficiencies in what we did. We failed to attach equal importance to both types of work, and there was no proper coordination between them. I have made this point clear in the hope that it will be helpful in formulating our principles and policies in future.

In addition, we must continue to combine economic planning with regulation by market forces. This should never be changed. In our practical work during the period of readjustment we have more planning, while under other circumstances we can have more market regulation and more flexibility. The combination of planning and market regulation will be continued. The important thing is that we must never turn China back into a country that keeps its doors closed. A closed-door policy would be greatly to our disadvantage; we would not even have quick access to information. People say that information is important, right? It certainly is. If an administrator has no access to information, it’s as if he was purblind and hard of hearing and had a stuffed nose. And on no account must we go back to the old practice of keeping the economy under rigid control. I should like the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau to study this whole matter. It is an urgent problem that has to be tackled.

This is a summary of our work over the last ten years. Our basic ideas, from the development strategy to the principles and policies, including the policies of reform and opening to the outside, are correct. If our efforts have fallen short in any respect, it is that we have not done enough to implement those polices. We have encountered more difficulties in the reform than in the opening process. In the reform of the political structure, one thing is certain: we must adhere to the system of the people’s congresses instead of practising the separation of the judicial, executive and legislative powers on the American pattern. As a matter of fact, not all the Western countries follow the pattern of separation of powers. The United States has blamed us for suppressing the students. But didn’t the U.S. itself call out police and troops to deal with student strikes and disturbances, and didn’t that lead to arrests and bloodshed? It suppressed the students and the people, while we put down a counter-revolutionary rebellion. What right has it to criticize us? In future, however, we must make sure that no adverse trend is allowed to reach that point.

What should we do from now on? In my opinion, we should continue to follow unswervingly the basic line, principles and policies we have formulated. There should be no changes in them except for a few changes of wording, if necessary. This question of what we should do from now on has been raised, and I hope you will give it careful consideration. As for where investment should go and where funds should be used, I am in favour of applying them to strengthen basic industries and agriculture. We should increase our investment in basic industries — raw and semi-finished materials, transportation and energy. We should keep on doing that for 10 to 20 years. We should increase our investment in these industries even if it means going into debt. Borrowing money is also a way of opening to the outside. In this regard we should display more courage; we won’t make any major mistakes. We can accomplish many things if we have more electric power and build more railways, highways and ports. Foreigners predict that we shall need 120 million tons of steel a year in future. Our present output is about 60 million tons, only half that figure. (K Chew note: current seel production is around 600 million ton, which is 5 times the prediction made in 1989 or 10 times more than the 1989 production) If we renovate the existing enterprises and produce 20 million more tons of steel, we shall be able to curtail the import of steel products. Borrowing money abroad for this purpose is also part of reform and opening. The question before us now is not whether the policies of reform and opening are right or whether they should be implemented but how to carry them out, what to open and what to close.

We should unswervingly carry out the line, principles and policies formulated since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee. We should carefully review our experience, keep on doing what is right, correct what is wrong and make up for what is inadequate. In short, we should learn from the past and look to the future.

That’s all I have to say on this occasion.


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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