Deng Xiaoping

Speech At a Forum of the Military Commission of the Central Committee of the CPC


Published: July 4, 1982
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


This forum has held useful discussions on problems in the army. I agree with the way these problems have been handled, though the results haven’t been fully satisfactory in all cases. At the moment, we can’t expect too much.

Comrade Yang Shangkun has already talked about structural reform, so I’m not going to say much about that. I just want to make one point: the importance of that reform. Recently, I have spoken twice about the four guarantees of our adherence to the socialist system and of our success in the modernization drive. The first guarantee is to undertake structural reform, including the organizational streamlining we are now carrying out. The second is to build a socialist civilization with a high cultural and ideological level, so as to inculcate ideals, morality, knowledge and discipline in all our people. Of course, there are also “the five things to stress and the four things to beautify”, and in the army the “four haves, three stresses and two defy’s”. All these calls are in the same spirit, and they are all correct. The army, of course, has its own characteristics. I have talked to some of our theorists about why we need to emphasize discipline. They agreed that it is essential. We simply must have discipline. Without it, we would find it impossible to work together with one heart and one mind for the realization of our goals. The Chinese revolution has always depended on discipline, especially voluntary observance of it. This has been the best tradition of the Chinese Communist Party since its founding. The third guarantee is a firm crackdown on economic crime. The fourth is Party building, the consolidation of the Party’s organization and the rectification of its work style. These are what we mean by the four guarantees. Until the four modernizations are completed we will need these four guarantees at every step. For instance, why must we crack down on economic crime? Well, to carry out socialist modernization, we must adopt the policy of opening to the outside world and stimulating the economy. As we open to the outside world, corrupt capitalist things from abroad will find their way into China. And it is quite a problem to decide how far we should go in stimulating the economy. We are determined to open up and to stimulate the economy. But in order to ensure that this policy really benefits our modernization and does not take us off the socialist path, we must at the same time fight economic crime. Otherwise things will get out of hand. Already quite a few problems have arisen. Economic crimes are very serious and many cases are difficult to handle. Serious crimes and major criminals are to be found not only in the economic but in the political and cultural fields as well. In sum, we cannot attain the four guarantees all at once; We must keep working for them for a long time. We won’t launch any mass movements, but we must continue our efforts in this regard throughout the course of the four modernizations. We must not forget the four guarantees for a single day. We must make their realization part of our daily work and struggle. Not all the problems related to the four guarantees are in the nature of class struggle, but there is class struggle in some cases.

As for organizational streamlining, we have taken the first step. The Party and the government got started a little earlier than the army. On the whole we are going ahead smoothly. In the course of this forum you have come to a unified view. Now that you are all in agreement, it will be easier to get things done in the army. It now appears possible that the army, which is known for quick action, will complete the first stage in a somewhat shorter time than our other institutions. At present, all the streamlining that is being done in the Party, the government and the army is only a first step. Structural reform requires the elaboration of complete rules, regulations, work methods and methods of leadership. It is impossible to accomplish all these things at once. There are many rules and regulations to be instituted. For instance, in establishing the responsibility system, we must define various duties and assign them to departments and persons. Everything must be clear. Now that so many ministries and commissions under the State Council have been amalgamated, our old methods will no longer work. The number of Vice-Premiers has been reduced to two. This means that, as the streamlining proceeds, we must strengthen the ministries and commissions, increase their responsibilities and enhance their ability to handle problems. They in their turn should do likewise with regard to their subordinate departments and bureaus. By the same token, heavier responsibility should devolve on factories, mines and some corporations. We just can’t afford not to streamline.

The army faces this problem too. The Military Commission and the various general departments should be streamlined. It’s not yet completely clear how that should be done. But the present structure, method of leadership and organization of work in the army are not very satisfactory; they are too complicated. We have the Military Commission, its Standing Committee, its regular working conferences and then the several general departments. The fact is, we should increase the responsibilities of the General Staff Headquarters, the General Political Department and the General Logistics Department, and have only a small co-ordinating organization above them. With too many leaders, not only do the comrades at lower levels find it hard to get things done, but we ourselves have trouble circulating papers for approval. When we fought in the past, a field army had only a few leaders, as did an army group, an army-level unit or a division. In some divisions the commander was also the political commissar. He was assisted by one or two deputy political commissars, and they all co-operated very well. Peng Dehuai was both commander and political commissar of the First Field Army, as was Chen Yi of the Third. Each of the other field armies had two leaders. That arrangement was very efficient. Today, however, there are too many leaders in each high-level group. We are taking only the first step in organizational streamlining. We must keep at it. We’ll do things one at a time as conditions become ripe. When conditions are not ripe, it is better to go a little slower. In the current streamlining, the army is moving rather slowly, but that’s necessary. The more thorough the preparations and the more unanimous the thinking of the people concerned, the more easily problems will be solved.

Comrade Yang Shangkun has discussed four points relating to structural reform in the army. Today I’ll concentrate on two. First, we must raise efficiency. This means increasing combat effectiveness and efficiency in general. Second, structural reform will make it possible for us to select more capable people for promotion — this is one of its important features. With the bloated organization we’ve had, it has been virtually impossible to train and promote able people. For years we’ve been talking about the need for younger cadres in the army and about promoting outstanding young cadres faster. But we have to admit that our work in this respect has been far from ideal. If the problem isn’t solved, we will have failed in our duty. Is there anyone sitting here who’s under 60? I doubt it. Each year that we put this off, the heavier our responsibility becomes. If this goes on for another five years, what then? Promoting younger cadres must be a key aim of our structural reform, whether in the army, in civilian organizations, in the Party or the government. We should choose a number of politically sound and relatively young cadres and promote them step by step. It’s not easy to identify able persons. Our old comrades generally can’t see beyond their own age group. Whenever we talk about promoting cadres, they select them from within their own circle. When it comes to the army, it’s even difficult for comrades of the “1938 vintage” to get promoted. The old tradition of seniority is also a problem in the army. A large group of old Red Army men, including me, are sitting at the top. This problem must be resolved. Comrade Nie Rongzhen has said that we must go forward on a solid footing. I agree. He has made a good suggestion: that we combine the efforts of the old with those of the young, because it wouldn’t work for the old just to drop everything suddenly. They should combine their efforts with those of the young and middle-aged. In the army as a whole, cadres at and under the regimental level are relatively young, while those at and above the divisional level are rather old. The working conference of the Military Commission has prepared for your comments a draft document, “Regulations Concerning the Military Service of Army Officers”. Please discuss it carefully. We must have such a document. It’s absolutely essential.

There are capable people around, but it’s hard for us to identify them, not only because of our conventional ways of thinking, but because we have too little contact with comrades at the lower levels. The year before last, when I visited the No. 2 Motor Works with Comrade Chen Pixian, one of the deputy directors showed us around. I was very impressed with him. He was one of the principal technicians in this big factory and was really on top of his job. He was then 38 years old, now he’s 40. More important, during the “cultural revolution” he was attacked for his opposition to beating, smashing and looting. And his conduct has always been good since, including his attitude towards the movement to “counter the Right deviationist trend to reverse correct verdicts”. Such people are really valuable. There are plenty of them and it’s easy to see their worth. In choosing persons for promotion, political qualifications should come first. This is a problem in the army. Comrade Yang Shangkun has said that the thinking and political viewpoints of some regimental, battalion and company cadres are not good. We should be aware of this. We should also be able to identify the better cadres. I have suggested that leading comrades in the Military Commission and the general departments — and here I include you “big mandarins” from the various regions — each draw up a list of a dozen persons. There are more than 60 comrades sitting here, so you should be able to come up with nearly a thousand names. As for political qualifications, we must exclude people of the following three types: those who rose to prominence by following Lin Biao, Jiang Qing and their like in “rebellion”; those who are seriously factionalist in their thinking; and those who engaged in beating, smashing and looting. It should be said that the great majority of those who were the so-called bystanders during the “cultural revolution” are good people; they should be trained and promoted step by step — but more quickly.

To sum up, besides combating bureaucratism and overcoming organizational bloatedness, overstaffing and inefficiency in the course of structural reform, it is important to select competent persons and promote good younger cadres to leading posts sooner so that they will be able to take over. This matter should be constantly on our agenda. We have talked about it for years, and everybody considers it a major task. It’s difficult to accomplish. But if this matter of promoting capable people isn’t settled, we won’t be able to hand over the reins, and history will count that against us. We have been slow in doing many things. We can’t afford further delays. These are my views on structural reform.