Deng Xiaoping

Streamlining Organizations Constitutes A Revolution


Published: January 13, 1982
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


I’ll make a few points.

First, streamlining organizations is a matter of great importance. In fact it constitutes a revolution. If we fail to carry out this revolution, if we let the present overstaffed and overlapping Party and state organizations stay as they are — without clearly defined duties and with many incompetent, irresponsible, lethargic, under-educated and inefficient staff members — we ourselves will not feel satisfied and we will not have the support of the lower cadres, much less of the people. This situation cannot continue. It has become unbearable and will not be tolerated by the people or the Party. How can we permit its continuation if we want to keep to the socialist road and go on working for the four modernizations? All our veteran comrades should understand that the promotion of cadres who are more revolutionary, younger, better educated and more competent professionally is a strategic need for the revolution and construction. For us old cadres it is a most honourable and sacred obligation. It will be our last historical contribution to the Party and will put the Party spirit of each one of us to a severe test. So this matter must be resolved. It should have been resolved earlier, but unfortunately conditions have not been favourable. Today, having smashed the Gang of Four and held the Third through the Sixth Plenary Sessions of the Eleventh Central Committee, we have created such conditions. It is high time this matter was placed on our agenda. Can we afford to put it off a little longer? The longer we wait the harder it will be, because the problem will become worse, difficulties will multiply and every year more people will be involved. Besides, this is something that concerns many old comrades. Many politically conscious old comrades are still with us; they can set a good example and clear away obstacles. Here too we have a favourable condition. If we can reach a consensus of opinion, we can solve the problem more easily. There must be no further delay. In short, streamlining organizations constitutes a revolution. Of course, it is not our intention to overthrow anyone but to transform the organizational structure of our Party and state. If we don’t carry out this revolution but let the old and ailing stand in the way of young people who are energetic and able, not only will the four modernizations fail but the Party and state will face a mortal trial and perhaps perish. No matter how correct all the other policies and principles of the Party and government and no matter how great our achievements, without this revolution the Party and government organizations will continue to lack vigour and efficiency, and they will be unable to implement our policies and principles fully and to score greater successes. How will the people be able to excuse us in that case? How can we ourselves have any peace of mind? We can’t just dwell on our past achievements. We have to see the many problems surfacing every day.

My second point is that this problem concerns several million people. We are going to reduce our personnel not just by one million but by several. At the central level, we want to cut staff by one-third. At the lower levels, I think more than one-third should be trimmed. If we were to cut only one-fourth, that would still be five million people. Of course, they are not all cadres. Some will be ordinary working personnel including service workers. Each department or unit should determine its appropriate size and structure. Some persons should stay at their posts while others are taken out in rotation for training. After passing examinations, these trainees will return to their work and another group will go to be trained. Generally speaking, this plan will affect several million cadres at the higher, middle and lower levels. If we include enterprises and institutions that are also to be streamlined, even more people will be involved. In Party, government and mass organizations alone they will number four to five million. This is a big problem calling for a careful approach. But determination is of the first importance; meticulousness comes second. No matter how meticulous we are, we are bound to overlook something. That’s inevitable. I must say this beforehand. Time is pressing because we plan to finish this revolution in two years, so strong will is required. Once the Political Bureau has approved the plans, we must stand firm and brook no interference. Some foreigners are saying we will fail. Our cadres at lower levels likewise feel it will be very hard. Let me repeat: Difficulties there will be, but if we make up our minds and stand firm, I don’t believe we will fail. Don’t we always have to be confident of final victory? In my view, we must proceed with complete confidence. There is no alternative. We can’t waver. We can’t compromise. We can’t give up halfway. We can expect some trouble, including demonstrations. But don’t just agree in principle and then hesitate when personal interests are involved. Don’t be afraid of the possibility of marches and demonstrations and of the appearance of big-character posters in the process of our organizational streamlining. This process will inevitably affect a number of persons who belong to one faction or another, triggering their factionalism and causing complications. But come what may, we must stick to our guns in this revolution, standing staunch and unshakable. A little trouble is nothing to worry about; it can’t frighten us.

Thirdly, I suggest that the Political Bureau approve in principle the streamlining programme for the central state organs. But the programme for Party organs directly under the Central Committee isn’t concrete enough. Perhaps the cuts are still too small. Let me be blunt: there may not be enough revolutionary spirit in the programme. I don’t mean that we should dismantle the “big temple” of the organs directly under the Central Committee, but there are too many “small temples”. What’s more, there are too many deities in each. So there’s a lot to be done. Don’t think there isn’t much to deal with. Take the mass organizations for example. The trade union, youth and women’s organizations can take this opportunity to draw up plans for trimming their staffs and establishing compact, efficient structures, setting a good example. They used to have small staffs and organizational structures, but now they are quite big. Institutions which are not enterprises can also be streamlined. If the organizations under the State Council can reduce their staffs by a little more than 30 per cent, I’m afraid it won’t do for the central Party and mass organizations to trim by only a few per cent. We can also approve in principle the programme for organs directly under the Central Committee, then investigate further. Don’t think there is no more room for improvement. Taken as a whole, this programme is not revolutionary enough.

Although the army is just beginning to consider this problem, we are determined to reduce its size.

Once the streamlining programmes have been approved, they can get under way. First we can study the organizational structure and size of one or two departments. Take the State Council for instance. How many Vice-Premiers are needed? Some comrades at this meeting have proposed two. We may think in terms of two, but that may not be enough. Of course if two will do, I will approve. We can also have a few State Councillors. Their rank is equivalent to that of a Vice-Premier and as such they can pay state visits. But the State Councillors can be flexible in their functions, and the Premier can assign them a variety of tasks. With State Councillors we might be able to do with fewer Vice-Premiers. Please discuss this. Ministries and commissions can start trimming now. We’d better begin with one or two so as to gain experience and see the reactions and problems. Everybody will see what happens, and the other ministries and commissions will be more confident and do better. In brief, we’ll spend half a year on streamlining at the central level. That should be enough to get things into shape. How we deal with the persons who are no longer needed is another problem. It will take longer to complete that job. But so far as organizational structure is concerned, there should be preliminary results within six months. I think that’s enough time to work out the size and structure of each ministry and commission. If it’s really insufficient, we can take nine months, but no more. Of course, the provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions can start carrying out their programmes after the central organizations have been doing so for a period. They don’t have to wait until the central organs have finished. After programmes have been decided on and a few pilot units have gained experience, the local organizations can start their paring down. At the central level, we can take one or two units — The Ministry of Foreign Trade, for instance — to test our plan in practice. Again, couldn’t we combine the Ministry of Water Conservancy and the Ministry of Electric Power? It shouldn’t be hard to merge them. We’ll watch to see what problems arise. There may be different reactions and questions raised from various angles. The streamlining programmes can’t be perfect right away. If they are all right on the whole, that will do. We must be strict on matters of principle because it is only too easy to go soft. This time we must be strict and not ease up. For example, after we fix the quota for vice-ministers — that there will be so many and no more — although the incumbents may change in the future, the number cannot. This will facilitate replacements. Otherwise, there will be too many leaders. We’ll arrange things so that it won’t be easy to add even a single person. Thus the way can be paved for younger cadres to come up. With the number of personnel fixed, everyone will really have to do his job; there will be no room for nominal or semi-nominal posts. Some comrades say they are still up to their jobs, but if full responsibility really fell on them, could they handle it? They will have to take the test. If you were to ask me to work eight hours a day at my age, I’m sure I couldn’t do it.

To sum up, we may approve these two programmes in principle today, and then we should move to implement them. We are going to spend a month or two trying them out in a couple of units, deciding on their structure and size, defining the duties of each unit and each person, assigning specific jobs to individuals and watching for problems.

My fourth and last point is that in this revolution we must pay attention not only to cutting back staff but also to promoting people. I have just said that we have to cut staff by several million and that this matter must be handled well. But promotion is the primary issue. Selecting and promoting the right people to the leadership of ministries and their departments and bureaus is the most important thing. This is also true for the army. Promotion is primary, cutbacks are secondary. We must make the best choices, “selecting the virtuous and appointing the able”, as the saying goes. This embraces the three qualifications of political quality, competence and experience. “Virtuous” means of good political quality, while “able” means having professional knowledge, a good education, practical experience and a physical constitution up to the demands of the job. This time we are asking supernumerary and ailing old comrades to retire or to transfer to more suitable positions (I mean honorary positions). Who will replace them? The best candidates must be found. As I’ve said before, we must stick to the points Comrade Chen Yun discussed. There are a few types of persons who can never be considered. We have plenty of people. In promotions, the key is to select younger people. Of course, there will probably be a transition period: For a year or two, especially right after the streamlining, elderly comrades will continue to serve as ministers. The reason is easy to understand. When the size of the State Council is reduced, the ministries and commissions will have more power and will in turn allow enterprises and institutions under them to have more authority. This too is part of setting things right. We should do our best to choose younger persons as vice-ministers and department and bureau chiefs. When we founded the People’s Republic, all our ministers were young, almost all of them in their thirties or forties. Many persons who are now our mainstays in different professions graduated from universities in the fifties and sixties and have much more knowledge than our former ministers had. Streamlining is a revolution. So is “selecting the virtuous and appointing the able”. We must do a good job of organizational trimming and — even more important — we must do a good job of promoting cadres. We must complete both these tasks at the same time and not leave them for some future campaign. The present streamlining can be seen as a small-scale campaign. We have said we will not launch any big campaigns. But this is just a small one and the methods are completely different from any we have used in the past.

That’s all I want to say on my four points.

(Remarks at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party concerning the streamlining of the central organizations.)