> Opinion

LI TIEYING: Deng Xiaoping’s Talks in Southern China is a precious political heritage

By Li Tieying | 2014-09-11 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
 Li Tie Ying
This year is the 36th anniversary of China’s implementation of the reform and opening-up policy. Following the course initiated under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China has made splendid achievements in its economic and social development. In this particular context, the commemoration of the 110th anniversary of the great Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s birth is of vital realistic and historical significance.
As the chief architect of China’s reform and opening-up as well as its modernization, no one would deny Deng’s unparalleled prestige and notable influence among Chinese people. His theory on Chinese socialism systematically responds to the question of how to construct, develop and consolidate socialism within the relatively underdeveloped economic and cultural context of China at the time.
Reviewing Deng’s speech in the early 1992—Excerpts from Talks Given in Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai (hereafter simplified as Southern Tour Talks), I am once again impressed by the profound insights of the speech, which summarizes both China and foreign countries’ historical experiences, especially those in the years since the reform and opening-up. It sheds light upon a set of critical issues facing China, serving as the theoretical cornerstone in accomplishing Chinese socialism.
The following are some of my opinions on Deng’s Southern Tour Talks.
About Marxism
In the Talks in Southern China, Deng put forward many theories as to the definition of Marxism. Together with his ideas in other essays and speeches, such theories constitute Deng’s distinct perception toward the connotations of Marxism.
Marxism is a science that we should unswervingly advocate within the context of Chinese realities. This is the conclusion reached by Deng based on the past experience of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). As he put forth, Marxism is never dogmatic but rather instructive, requiring people to constantly explore solutions to emerging problems according to its basic principles. Through a reexamination of the illustration on Marxism in the Southern Tour Talks, a conclusion can be drawn that in contemporary China, any theory that is conducive to the well-being of common people and national prosperity is a renewed Marxism—Marxism with Chinese characteristics. Herein lies the essence and vitality of Marxism.
About Socialism
What is the right form of socialism applicable to China and what are the ways to achieve it? The answers can only be figured out through long-term trial at both the theoretical and pragmatic level. The Southern Tour Talks contains Deng’s insightful views on the two issues.
“With regard to socialism, the first priority is to enhance productive forces, which is the only way to demonstrate the superiority of socialism. The disposable income of people is the only criterion by which to test whether socialist economic policies are effective, otherwise, socialism would not win the trust of our people,” Deng emphasized.
Deng continued to expound upon the essential nature of socialism—common prosperity shared by all. He also stressed that both planned and market methods are to serve the economy. “A planned economy does not equal socialism, while a market economy does not mean capitalism. The two intersect with each other as economic instruments,” said Deng, whose thought refuted traditional Western notions of a market economy, providing theoretical support for the development of a socialist market economy. Deng’s ideas on socialism help us better understand socialism with Chinese characteristics, which is the product of adapting scientific socialist theory to China’s realities. Striding forward, China will still have to go through a long-term period to accomplish the ideal, which would be fraught with toil and foil.
About emancipating the mind
Another two essential components of the Southern Tour Talks are to emancipate the mind and activate the productive forces. Upon delivered, it won the ardent support from the Chinese public, giving an impetus to another round of reforms.
As Deng explained, the emancipation of the mind means to cast off the shackles of entrenched stereotypes and subjective biases, freeing up our thought so that we have the capacity to grasp reality.
There is no absolute principle according to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Chairman Mao. Our ideology should break the constraints of both left-wing and right-wing thoughts as well as formalism, bureaucracy, the remants of feudalism and bourgeois ideas, Deng noted.
Democracy, as the prerequisite for the emancipation of the mind, could direct ideology onto the right track. Without sufficient democracy, people would not dare to freely express their views, which would in turn, be difficult for the ruling party to hear public voice.
About reform and opening-up
The reform and opening-up policy is also highlighted by the Southern Tour Talks.
Deng remarked that reform, by definition, is to fundamentally invigorate the economic system to further stimulate productive forces. He pioneered the proposal to set up special economic zones, develop foreign-invested enterprises and ventures in China, including Sino-foreign joint ventures, cooperative businesses, and exclusively foreign-owned enterprises.
Deng considered foreign-invested enterprises and ventures to be wholesome and complementary for socialist economy. “Whether or not stock and equity markets are beneficial to us, we need to have a try. Their effectiveness is to be seen after one or two years’ trial.”
Reform and opening-up came as a result of Deng’s use of a reformative and global view to study socialism. A crucial choice made at a critical juncture of China’s destiny, it is the application of historical materialism into socialism.
Seizing the opportunity for self-improvement
Seizing the opportunity for self-improvement is another strategic view in the Southern Tour Talks.
“Now both the domestic and international environment is to our advantage, thus it’s high time that we make the best of the current opportunities,” Deng said. He also pointed out several times that though possible perils of world wars remain, the power of peace will prevail.
History has proven the validity of Deng’s judgment of the times and historical circumstances both at home and abroad, which has offered theoretical underpinning for CPC in formulating the right guidelines and policies.
As for seizing opportunities, what are the major steps that China must take to boost its economy? Deng proposed the following:
Development is the first principle. Basically, a strong economy will endow China with more initiative in tackling all sorts of problems and resolving contradictions. Besides, the pursuit of economic growth should not be at the expense of overly high speed. The emphasis on the economic effectiveness in a down-to-earth manner is a must.
Furthermore, the economic foundation and growth rate varies at local levels, some provinces and municipalities should be encouraged to develop faster than the average in a stable and coordinated way.
About Party building
As Deng maintained, the success of China’s socialist modernization hinges upon the leadership of the CPC. If there is any problem with China’s development, it should be attributed to the internal management of the Party. Therefore, he always attaches high importance of Party building.
In Southern Tour Talks, he put forward a series of essential thoughts on Party building: educate the Party through Marxist-Leninist instruction; train cadre with both political integrity and professional competence; believe in the masses, rely on them and keep in close contact with them; oppose formalism and corruption by means of rule by law.
These are important parts of Deng’s theory of Party building for China that have played and will continue to play vital roles in building a better CPC.
Admittedly, much has changed since the talks were given. Radical transformations have occurred in terms of global and national conditions as well as within the CPC. The proliferation of finance and the Internet has brought revolutionary changes to the world and bigger risks. As China enters a new period of progress, it faces many complex and capricious emerging problems. With little experience to guide us in these new frontiers, strenuous effort is needed to achieve success.
The Southern Tour Talks were delivered by Deng at the ripe old age of 88 while he was inspecting several provinces in Southern China. Having retired, he still harbored strong political awareness, being prepared for any unexpected eventualities. His insights into the future and fate of the Party and the State have answered many questions that perplexed Chinese leaders and the masses.
Twenty-two years have passed since the delivery of the Southern Tour Talks and it has been 17 years since Deng Xiaoping passed away. In retrospect, China has taken on a new look with notably higher international status. The remarkable achievements made in Chinese social economy owe much to Deng Xiaoping, whom we deeply miss. It has been the Chinese people’s honor and pride to have Deng as their leader in the last quarter of the 20th century. It was he who wrote a glorious chapter in the history of the China’s rejuvenation.
President Xi Jinping once remarked: “Persisting in socialism with Chinese characteristics is a big story to write and Deng Xiaoping has designed its fundamental lines and principles.” The task that CPC needs to fulfill in the new era is to continue writing the story. As Deng once said, always forge ahead with vibrancy and strong-mindedness, keen to solve the ideological and realistic problems, and always be innovative. This is the true Chinese spirit.
Li Tieying is the former vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the former president of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) .
The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 637, August 22, 2014  
Edited and translated by Bai Le
The Chinese link: