Deng Xiaoping

Be Realistic and Look to the Future


Spoken: August 20, 1963
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


With regard to industrial development, my main concern is how to be realistic and look to the future. We should have a sober estimate of our industrial foundation, neither overestimating nor underestimating it. So long as we know the existing industrial foundation, proceed from the reality and review the experience gained in our country while drawing on foreign experience, we can achieve greater, faster, better and more economical results in industrial development as is required by the general line.

We should be clear about our industrial foundation and the agricultural foundation as well. Here comes a population problem. Last year there was a net increase of more than 13 million people. This year there may be another net increase of 20 million. By 1970 we shall have a population of 800 million. A big population on the one hand is favourable for us, but on the other hand it is unfavourable for us, because we have to supply such a huge population with food, clothing and other daily necessities. It will be many years before we can solve this problem. Besides, we should be clear about the number of technical personnel. We made rapid progress in the training of such personnel during the past 13 years. However, the shortage of technical personnel is still an acute problem in all departments. Many things remain to be done in this respect. For example, we should appropriately reform the educational system and increase the number of teachers, etc. The low standards of management constitute another problem.

We should distinguish between the industrial level and the technological level. Our technological level is not high and the categories of technologies are incomplete. Many technological problems concerning some important military products remain to be solved. They are hard nuts to crack. Without foreign data and materials, it would not be so easy for us to solve those problems in a short time. Our industrial level is not high either. For example, we have only approximately 600,000 machine tools and lack precision, large and special machine tools. We have only more than 34,000 kilometres of railways. Nearly one-third of the rails need to be replaced, and many bridges need to be repaired.

Long ago Chairman Mao defined the path for the country’s industrial development. In his On the Ten Major Relationships and On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, he pointed out that we should develop industry and agriculture, and light and heavy industries simultaneously. This is a summarization of the experience gained in other countries. With a formidable agricultural foundation industry developed rapidly in the United States long ago. Japan was able to develop its industry rapidly after World War II simply because it first solved the problem of agriculture. Our weak link lies mainly in agriculture. With an annual increase of ten or twenty million people, we have to supply them with food, clothing and other daily necessities. This is a real burden.

There are many problems with industry and particularly with basic industry. We lag far behind in mining and steel rolling, the two sectors of iron and steel industry. The nonferrous metals industry and machinery industry are also very weak. Our output of petroleum is only several million tons. Coal is used as the main fuel, and if we want to increase its output, we have to make huge investment. This will take a long time. Many countries have been able to develop industries and sophisticated industries rapidly just because they have powerful basic industries. It seems that we can hardly find any country in the world which has developed sophisticated industry rapidly with a weak basic industry.

In a word, when formulating principles and plans for industrial development, we should give consideration to the foundations of our agriculture, industry and science and technology as well as our management standards. From a long-term point of view, we can achieve faster and better economical results if we put agriculture first and then light industry and heavy industry, I think that, for some time, we should focus on taking agriculture as the foundation and trying to appropriately solve the problem of our inadequate supply of food, clothing and other daily necessities (of course on a low level). In industry, we should concentrate on developing basic industry, which is still weak.

What is our objective to be accomplished? We want our country to be among the advanced countries in the world through our forty years of hard work. That is, we want it to become one of the few major industrial powers in the world, but not to surpass all the other countries. We are not sure whether we shall be able to surpass all the other countries, because our economic foundation is different from that of other countries and they are also advancing. Of course, it may not necessarily take forty years for China to become one of the major powers in the world.

I think we had better set a short-term objective first, that is, to preliminarily or basically establish an independent nationwide industrial system after five to seven years of hard work. We should try to achieve this objective by 1970 through careful and rational planning. If we fail in our effort, we may spend one or two more years attaining this goal. The basic or preliminary establishment of such an industrial system will lay a foundation for faster development of industry, agriculture and national defence.

During this period, we should first solve the problem of the supply of food, clothing and other daily necessities. In agriculture, we should solve the problems of fertilizer, pesticides and water conservancy in particular, including the drainage of flooded fields. We should try every means to develop light industry so as to accumulate more capital. An important thing we should do is to develop cash crops. In the next few years, we should produce more cash crops, even if we have to continue to import grain. Second, we should develop basic industry and build new railways. Third, we should develop sophisticated technology in national defence. We should still pay attention to producing conventional weapons. All these are the main tasks to be fulfilled. To this end, we may as well put forth several plans or methods for discussion. The general programme is to accomplish the four modernizations.

In establishing new enterprises in future, we should give priority to small and medium-sized ones and only establish large enterprises which are absolutely necessary. If we concentrate on small and medium-sized enterprises, our management standards will also improve rapidly.

I should like comrades from each major region of the country to consider whether or not we should change the managerial system of enterprises, establish trusts and put the big industrial cities directly under the jurisdiction of the Central Government. We should try to find out the problems.

In the document we should explain the proportion of accumulation to consumption, that is, the proportion of investment. We must settle this issue.

It is necessary to say something about the cadres policy. To sum up, our cadres should be both politically sound and professionally competent. Those who are in charge of industry must have professional knowledge. I am pleased to learn that there are really a number of directors of departments or bureaus and some vice ministers who are capable and vocationally proficient. There are also a number of such cadres in the provinces and municipalities. We should send them to enterprises (small or medium-sized, but not necessarily large enterprises) to serve as directors for a couple of years and then appoint them ministers or vice ministers. By so doing we can have a number of key leading cadres who are capable and both politically sound and professionally competent and our management standards will be greatly raised. We should adopt this policy organizationally, because it has an important bearing on our future.

(Main points of a speech on industrial development at the meeting held by the Industrial Decision Drafting Committee.)