Deng Xiaoping

On Reform of the Political Structure


Published: September – November 1986
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine



Our reform of the economic structure is going smoothly on the whole. Nevertheless, as it proceeds we shall inevitably encounter obstacles. It is true that there are people, both inside and outside our Party, who are not in favour of the reform, but there are not many who strongly oppose it. The important thing is that our political structure does not meet the needs of the economic reform.

When we first raised the question of reform we had in mind, among other things, reform of the political structure. Whenever we move a step forward in economic reform, we are made keenly aware of the need to change the political structure. If we fail to do that, we shall be unable to preserve the gains we have made in the economic reform and to build on them, the growth of the productive forces will be stunted and our drive for modernization will be impeded.

The content of the political reform is still under discussion, because this is a very difficult question. Since every reform measure will involve a wide range of people, have profound repercussions in many areas and affect the interests of countless individuals, we are bound to run into obstacles, so it is important for us to proceed with caution. First of all we have to determine the scope of the political restructuring and decide where to begin. We shall start with one or two reforms and not try to do everything at once, because we don’t want to make a mess of things. In a country as vast and complex as ours, reform is no easy task. So we must be very cautious about setting policies and make no decision until we are quite sure it is the right one.

In essence, the purpose of political restructuring is to overcome bureaucratism, develop socialist democracy and stimulate the initiative of the people and of the grass-roots units. Through the reform, we intend to straighten out the relationship between the rule of law and the rule of man and between the Party and the government. We should be firm about leadership by the Party. The Party should lead well, but its functions must be separated from those of the government. This question should be put on the agenda.

(From a talk with Yoshikatsu Takeiri, Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Komei Party of Japan, on September 3, 1986)


If we do not institute a reform of our political structure, it will be difficult to carry out the reform of our economic structure. Separation of the functions of the Party and the government comes under the heading of political reform, and that raises the question of how a Party committee should exercise leadership. The answer is that it should deal only with major issues and not with minor ones. Local Party committees should not establish departments to take charge of economic affairs; those affairs should be the responsibility of local governments. However, that’s not the way it is at present.

We have to discuss what the content of political reform should be and work out the details. In my opinion, its purposes are to bring the initiative of the masses into play, to increase efficiency and to overcome bureaucratism. Its content should be as follows. First, we should separate the Party and the government and decide how the Party can exercise leadership most effectively. This is the key and should be given top priority. Second, we should transfer some of the powers of the central authorities to local authorities in order to straighten out relations between the two. At the same time, local authorities should likewise transfer some of their powers to lower levels. Third, we should streamline the administrative structure, and this is related to the devolution of powers.

We must set a starting date — one that is not too far off. At the National Party Congress next year we shall draw up a plan. However, in reforming our political structure we must not imitate the West, and no liberalization should be allowed. Of course our present structure of leadership has certain advantages. For example, it enables us to make quick decisions, while if we place too much emphasis on a need for checks and balances, problems may arise.

(Remarks made on September 13, 1986, after hearing a report from the Central Committee’s Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs.)


In the reform of the political structure, our general objectives are the following: (1) to consolidate the socialist system, (2) to develop the socialist productive forces and (3) to expand socialist democracy in order to bring the initiative of the people into full play. The chief purpose of mobilizing the people’s initiative is to develop the productive forces and raise living standards. This in turn will help increase the strength of our socialist country and consolidate the socialist system.

Both of our political structures were copied from the Soviet model. It seems to me that even in the Soviet Union this model has not been very successful. But even if it had achieved one hundred per cent success, would it be suited to realities in China? Would it be suited to realities in Poland? Conditions vary from one country to another. We have decided to reform our political structure in the light of realities in China.

(From a talk on September 29, 1986, with Wojciech Jaruzelski, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party and Chairman of the State Council of the People’s Republic of Poland.)


We feel the need to reform our political structure is growing more and more urgent, but we haven’t sorted everything out yet. Lately I’ve been thinking the reform should have three objectives.

The first objective is to ensure the continuing vitality of the Party and the state. This chiefly means that our leading cadres must be young. A few years ago we set forth four requirements for cadres: that they should be more revolutionary, younger, better educated and more competent professionally. We have made some progress in this respect over the last few years, but that’s just a beginning. The objective of having younger leading cadres is not something that can be achieved within three years or five. We shall be doing well if we achieve it in fifteen. By the time of the Party’s Thirteenth National Congress next year, we shall have taken a first step towards our goal, but that’s all. By the Fourteenth National Congress [1992], we expect to have taken another step, and by the Fifteenth to have reached our objective. This is not something people of our age can accomplish, but it is vitally important for us to set the goal. It would be wonderful if someday China had a contingent of fine 30-to-40-year-old statesmen, economists, military strategists and diplomats. Similarly, we hope there will be a contingent of fine 30-to-40-year-old scientists, educationists, writers and specialists in other fields. It is essential to introduce measures in various areas, including education and the management of cadres, to encourage young people. Strictly speaking, we are only taking our first steps in this regard. There are many problems to be studied and many measures to be taken, but we must act carefully.

The second objective of political structural reform is to eliminate bureaucratism and increase efficiency. One reason for low efficiency is that organizations are overstaffed, and their work proceeds at a snail’s pace. But the main reason is that we have not separated the functions of the Party from those of the government, so that the Party often takes over the work of the government, and the two have many overlapping organs. We must uphold leadership by the Party and never abandon it, but the Party should exercise its leadership effectively. It’s several years already since we first raised this problem of efficiency, but we still have no clear idea as to how to solve it. Unless we increase efficiency, we shall not succeed in our drive for modernization. In the world today, mankind is progressing at a tremendous pace. Especially in science and technology, if we lag only one year behind, it will be very hard to catch up. So we have to increase our efficiency. Of course this is not just a question of separating the Party from the government; there are many other problems to be solved too.

The third objective of political reform is to stimulate the initiative of grass-roots units and of workers, peasants and intellectuals. One thing we have learned from our experience in economic reform over the last few years is that the first step is to release the peasants’ initiative by delegating to them powers of decision in production. That is what we did in the countryside. We should do the same in the cities, delegating powers to the enterprises and grass-roots units and thereby motivating workers and intellectuals and democratizing management by letting them participate in it. The same applies to every other field of endeavour.

Only with a vigorous leadership that has eliminated bureaucratism, raised efficiency and mobilized the grass-roots units and the rank and file can we have real hope of success in our modernization drive.

(From a talk with Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone of Japan on November 9, 1986.)

(Excerpts from four talks.)