Deng Xiaoping

We Shall Concentrate On Economic Development


Published: September 18, 1982
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


We have just held the Twelfth National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Thanks to that congress, the political situation in our country will be more stable than ever before. This will make it possible for us to concentrate all the more on economic development.

The objective set at the Twelfth National Congress is to quadruple the gross annual value of industrial and agricultural output in 20 years, starting from 1981, that is, by the end of the century. We shall achieve this objective in two stages. In the first ten years, we shall lay a solid foundation and in the second, develop at high speed. Our strategic priorities will be first, agriculture; second, energy resources and communications; and third, education and science. I think the third priority is crucial. We cannot succeed without skilled personnel and knowledge. A grave mistake of the “cultural revolution” was that for ten years it made it impossible to train people. Now we should lose no time in developing education.

At the Twelfth National Congress comrades who had made mistakes were handled with circumspection. After the downfall of the Gang of Four, the comrade in charge of the work of the Central Committee at the time clung to a “Left” political line and put forward a wrong ideological line known as the “two whatevers”. As I have said before, if Chairman Mao had still been around, he would never have accepted that line, because it was not in conformity with Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. For one thing, if the “two whatevers” had been followed, I would never have come back to work. I came back in July 1977, nine months after the Gang of Four had been smashed. It was then that I was allowed to attend the meetings of the Central Committee. After my return, I put forward the idea that the essence of Mao Zedong Thought was seeking truth from facts, and that gave rise to a debate about whether practice is the sole criterion for testing truth. At the time, some people opposed the debate. In June 1978 I delivered a speech about this ideological line at an all-army conference on political work. Later, when I was on my way back from a visit to your country, I made similar speeches in the three provinces of Northeast China [Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning].

After about one year of debate, at the end of 1978 we convened the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee. At that session we criticized the idea of the “two whatevers” and put forward instead the slogan “We must emancipate our minds and use our heads.” We declared that we had to integrate theory with practice and proceed from reality in everything we did, affirmed that practice was the sole criterion for judging truth and reestablished the ideological line of seeking truth from facts. It was after we resolved the question of the ideological line that we were able to formulate correct new policies. These include, above all, the policy of shifting the focus of our work to economic development, but also rural policies, policies on foreign relations and a complete set of policies on building socialism.

Wherever I went in the three northeastern provinces, I stressed the need to concentrate on economic development. In a country as big and as poor as ours, if we don’t try to increase production, how can we survive? How is socialism superior, when our people have so many difficulties in their lives? The Gang of Four clamoured for “poor socialism” and “poor communism”, declaring that communism was mainly a spiritual thing. That is sheer nonsense! We say that socialism is the first stage of communism. When a backward country is trying to build socialism, it is natural that during the long initial period its productive forces will not be up to the level of those in developed capitalist countries and that it will not be able to eliminate poverty completely. Accordingly, in building socialism we must do all we can to develop the productive forces and gradually eliminate poverty, constantly raising the people’s living standards. Otherwise, how will socialism be able to triumph over capitalism? In the second stage, or the advanced stage of communism, when the economy is highly developed and there is overwhelming material abundance, we shall be able to apply the principle of from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. If we don’t do everything possible to increase production, how can we expand the economy? How can we demonstrate the superiority of socialism and communism? We have been making revolution for several decades and have been building socialism for more than three. Nevertheless, by 1978 the average monthly salary for our workers was still only 45 yuan, and most of our rural areas were still mired in poverty. Can this be called the superiority of socialism? That is why I insisted that the focus of our work should be rapidly shifted to economic development. A decision to this effect was made at the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, and it represented an important turning point. Our practice since then has shown that this line is correct, as the whole country has taken on an entirely new look.

Between the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee and the Twelfth National Congress, we have blazed a new path: concentrating on economic development.

(Excerpt from a talk with Kim I1 Sung, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party, while the two men were on their way to Sichuan Province.)