Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Kenji Kobayashi

Shakeup in China’s top leadership

While there is mass support for the new economic reforms, there has been substantial criticism and dissatisfaction with these programs over the last few years.

First Published: Unity, Vol. 8, No. 12, September 20-October 9, 1985.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

September 16. The Communist Party of China announced the resignation of ten of its 24-member Politburo, including Marshal Ye Jianying, a veteran military and state leader, and Deng Yingchao, the highest-ranking woman in the Chinese Communist Party and wife of the late Premier Zhou Enlai. The changes are being seen by many Western observers as moves that strengthen the position of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and China’s current reform program.

China’s economic reforms

China’s economic and management reforms, initiated in 1979, are designed to strengthen the economy as a whole and to raise the standard of living of the masses of people within the framework of socialist principles. While generally considered successful in China and supported by a majority of the people, there has been substantial criticism of and dissatisfaction with these programs over the last few years.

Some of the older generation of leaders, particularly those in the military, have been dissatisfied with the direction of economic policy for some time. Equality in income distribution regardless of how hard you work, and strict, centralized planning are important elements in the vision of socialism espoused by these veteran leaders, and these are precisely the aspects most directly challenged by the new reforms, which encourage individual initiative and enterprise, and decentralization in planning. The impact of the economic reforms has also been uneven. While some regions have prospered, others have remained fairly poor. This has led to some popular opposition to the new policies as well. This popular opposition, rallying around popular veteran leaders critical of the reform program, could become a significant factor in putting a brake on China’s current direction.

Supporters of the reform program, however, argue that the changes in economic policy are consistent with socialism and are not affecting the socialist ownership of the main means of production. It also argued that uneven development is unavoidable to a certain extent, and that this uneveness can be overcome over time. As for income distribution, it is argued that inequalities result from the socialist principle “to each according to their work.”

Differences remain

It is in this context that Deng Xiaoping is seen to be consolidating support for his views by encouraging the retirement of a number of opponents. Timely retirement and the abolition of “life-long tenure” in positions of responsibility, and the promotion of younger people are, in any case, part of an official policy aimed at a smooth and orderly transition of leadership from one generation to the next. Thus, not everyone who is retiring is a critic of the new policies. Conversely, not everyone who is critical of these policies is being retired, and this is significant. While it is generally expected that the new Politburo members will be favorably disposed to the economic reform program, thus ensuring a continuity of policy, it is also likely that a lively debate will continue.