Deng Xiaoping

China Can Only Take the Socialist Road


Published: March 3, 1987
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


The trouble we had recently is now over. In the long run, facts will show that the principles, policies and methods we used to deal with the student unrest and to make some changes of personnel in the Central Committee were in conformity with the interests of the entire population, and people will see more clearly that those principles, policies and methods were reasonable. Take the change of personnel in the Central Committee, for example. We used to go too far in handling cases of this kind. Bearing in mind the lessons of the past, we have handled Comrade Hu Yaobang’s case quite gently. To combat bourgeois liberalization, we are not going to launch a political movement. The struggle will be strictly confined to a limited sphere, so as not to make it seem more serious than it is.

Some people abroad are wondering if China is going to change its present principles and policies. We are not going to change them. Why should we, when they have proved effective over the last eight years?

Now I should like to make two points clear. One is that China can only take the socialist road. The other is that without political stability it would be impossible for us to modernize.

The few intellectuals who incited the students to action oppose the socialist system and advocate bourgeois liberalization. By that I mean they want China to be totally Westernized and to take the capitalist road. Our experience has shown, however, that we cannot take that road. The reason is very simple. Ours is an economically backward country with a population of one billion. If we took the capitalist road, a small number of people in certain areas would quickly grow rich, and a new bourgeoisie would emerge along with a number of millionaires — all of these people amounting to less than one per cent of the population — while the overwhelming majority of the people would remain in poverty, scarcely able to feed and clothe themselves. Only the socialist system can eradicate poverty. That is why we do not allow people to oppose socialism. By socialism, we mean socialism adapted to conditions in China. Without the Communist Party’s leadership it would be impossible for China to go on building socialism — that has been proved by history.

To shake off poverty and modernize, China must maintain political stability and unity and carry out socialist construction in an orderly way under the leadership of the Party. Disturbances would make it impossible for us to concentrate on economic development. That is the lesson we have learned from the “cultural revolution”. If more troubles were stirred up, there would be a new “cultural revolution”.

Most of the students who were involved in the recent disturbances are freshmen or sophomores under the age of 20 who have little experience of society. They went home for the winter vacation, and almost all of them were educated by their families. They were impressed by the improvement in the living standards of their neighbours. Some of them also travelled around a little and found that every family had benefited from what we have done over the last few years. So when they went back to school they admitted that their original ideas and the action they had taken were wrong.

Of course, the struggle against bourgeois liberalization involves a long-term process of education. It will therefore go hand in hand with our modernization drive. To stop a tendency — the student unrest, for example — before it gains momentum we have to adopt emergency measures. But in essence the struggle against bourgeois liberalization is a long-term task. It will take 50 to 70 years for us to modernize, and the struggle will have to be carried on throughout that period. Since it is a long-term task, we can only use constant education and persuasion, instead of launching political movements. When necessary, however, we shall resort to administrative or legal measures. It is our firm principle to maintain political stability so that we can carry out the modernization programme in an orderly way.

We have always encouraged our people to have high ideals and moral integrity, to become better educated and to cultivate a strong sense of discipline. Of these, high ideals and a strong sense of discipline are the most important. The ideal we should foster is to strive for socialist modernization. Many people talk only about modernization and forget that our modernization programme is a socialist one. Unless we carry out construction in an orderly way, we shall not succeed in modernizing or in developing economically. That has been our view ever since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, held in 1978. Now we are simply adhering to the established principles, policies and political line.

We have not met with too many difficulties in the course of the reform, and in general it is proceeding smoothly. Some people have disagreed with certain aspects of it or with certain particular measures, but not with the reform as a whole. There is no faction in China that is categorically opposed to reform. Some persons in other countries regard me as a reformist and other leaders as conservatives. It is true I am a reformist. But if a person who upholds theĀ Four Cardinal PrinciplesĀ is a conservative, then I am a conservative. Or to be more exact, I believe in seeking truth from facts.

(Excerpt from a talk with United States Secretary of State George Shultz.)