Deng Xiaoping

Talk At a Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee


Published: January 17, 1986
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


To promote ethical progress and raise standards of conduct both inside and outside the Party, we must redouble our efforts and not relax them for a single day. And we should start by dealing with specific cases of wrongdoing. We should move promptly to handle the cases of economic criminals, of people who in their dealings abroad have forfeited national and personal dignity and of persons who have served as enemy agents. The great majority of high-ranking cadres and their children are good. However, some of the children have divulged economic information, become involved in intelligence networks or sold information and documents. We should concentrate on investigating typical cases of lawbreaking by the children of senior cadres, senior cadres themselves and well-known public figures, because crimes committed by these people cause the most serious damage. Dealing with these cases will have the most effect; it will show our determination to surmount all obstacles in strengthening the legal system and promoting ethical progress.

It doesn’t matter much if some small fry slip through the net; of course, I don’t mean that we can lie back and take it easy on that account. But if we do a thorough job with these cases, we shall have an excellent chance of success; otherwise, it’s hopeless. High-ranking cadres whose family members have been involved in criminal activities should take a firm, clear-cut attitude towards those activities and resolutely support the judicial organs that are in charge of their cases. Anyone who has engaged in criminal activities must be dealt with in accordance with Party discipline and state law. Vigorous action must be taken, and we can’t be too tender-hearted. Take the case of Yang Xiaomin in Qinghai Province for example. For years a series of provincial Party secretaries took no action on it. Now it has been dealt with at last, and that is good. Dealing with that kind of case can have a great impact on society.

The death penalty cannot be abolished, and some criminals must be sentenced to death. Recently I have read some relevant documents, from which I understand there are a great many habitual criminals who, on being released after a few years’ remoulding through forced labour, resume their criminal activities, each time becoming more skilful and more experienced in coping with the public security and judicial organs. Why don’t we have some of them executed according to law? Why don’t we punish severely, according to law, people who traffic in women and children or who organize reactionary secret societies, and some of those habitual criminals who refuse to reform despite repeated attempts to educate them? Some of them must be executed, but of course we have to be very careful in such matters. Those who have merely made mistakes in the political and ideological sphere but have not violated state law should not be given any criminal sanctions, let alone the death penalty. But some of the perpetrators of serious economic or other crimes must be executed as required by law.

Generally speaking, the problem now is that we are too soft on criminals. As a matter of fact, execution is one of the indispensable means of education. [At this point Comrade Chen Yun remarked: “Executing some of them can help save many cadres. As the saying goes, execute one as a warning to a hundred.] Nowadays the death penalty is generally reserved for murderers only, but how about those who have committed other serious crimes? In Guangdong Province prostitution is rampant — why don’t we crack down on the worst proprietors of brothels? The ones who refuse to reform after being jailed and released several times should be severely punished as required by law. Some government functionaries have committed economic crimes so serious that they have caused the state to lose several million, or even ten million, yuan. Why can’t they be sentenced to death in accordance with the Criminal Law? For example, in 1952 two persons were executed, one by the name of Liu Qingshan and another by the name of Zhang Zishan, and that had a great impact on the society as a whole. Things are different now, and the effect would not be so great. To show our determination, we would have to execute several more than two.

The Secretariat has done an excellent job of improving Party conduct and general social conduct. I suggest that it spend two more years on this work to achieve substantial results. Success in this area will advance reform and construction. With all the resolve in the world, it will still take at least ten years of effort to restore Party and social conduct to the standards of the best period of the 1950s. The political line and the various policies set forth by the Central Committee are correct, and we must continue to carry out the reform and to open to the outside world. But there are many failings in our management and other work, and some Party cadres’ style of work and behaviour are shockingly bad. So in the movement to improve Party conduct, we should check up on Party members and expel some of them. Improvement in this area will demand at least ten years’ painstaking work, for it takes that long to educate people. The ten-year “cultural revolution” had a pernicious influence on the younger generation, and it is precisely owing to that influence that a small number of students have recently stirred up trouble.

In the effort to rectify Party conduct and raise general social standards in the past two years people have often been irresolute in many ways. For example, even when handling a very clear case, they have found it necessary to run around investigating, getting approval from this one and that, and then repeating the whole process, with the result that for years the case was never settled. As soon as we have ascertained the facts and got to the bottom of a case, we should pass judgement on it. Here too we need resolute and prompt action.

We should redouble our efforts, beginning with the current Meeting of Cadres of the Central Organs. The meeting has been going on for less than ten days, but it has already received warm response from all quarters. The speeches delivered at that meeting by several comrades should be published as the Central Committee’s Document No. 1 for 1986.

Our original idea was right: in our efforts to realize the modernization programme we must attend to two things and not just one. By this I mean that we must promote economic development and at the same time build a legal system. The Party has its discipline and the state has its law. Why is the principle of upholding the people’s democratic dictatorship included in the Four Cardinal Principles? It is because if we practise democracy within the ranks of the people without exercising dictatorship over the saboteurs, we cannot maintain political stability and unity or succeed in the modernization drive.

Starting from this year, we should work really hard for two more years. We have been fairly successful in economic development, and the economic situation is gratifying. This is quite an achievement for our country. But if standards of social conduct are deteriorating, what’s the use of achieving economic development? Worse, deteriorating social standards will in turn lead to a qualitative change in the economy, eventually producing a society in which embezzlement, theft and bribery run rampant. That’s why we cannot do without the Four Cardinal Principles, without dictatorship over the saboteurs. This dictatorship can ensure the smooth progress of the drive for socialist modernization and deal effectively with persons whose actions undermine our construction work.

I agree with the way the Secretariat has been doing this work.