Deng Xiaoping

Reform and Opening To the Outside World Can Truly Invigorate China


Published: May 12, 1987
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


Although I have not been to your country, I know that much land in the Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea, and your spirit of hard work is marvelous. In China we have a saying, “The foolish old man removed mountains.” This represents a tradition of our nation. One might say of your people “The foolish old man reclaimed land from the sea.” China’s average per capita amount of arable land is small, and yours is even smaller, but you have been successful in your work, and your country has become a big exporter of farm products. So we should learn from you.

We are happy to see you here in China for the second time. When you came in 1973 the “cultural revolution” [1966-1976] was still going on. At the time the Gang of Four was in power and running wild, and the people were oppressed and deeply worried about the future of the country. The society as a whole was at a standstill. The first couple of years after the “cultural revolution” were a period of hesitation. It was not until December 1978, when the Eleventh Central Committee of the CPC convened its Third Plenary Session, that we began to invigorate the country by devoting all our energies to things the people wanted us to do. In the eight years since that session we have taken the first step in our new Long March towards modernization. Our decision to concentrate on economic development was correct. To make economic development a success, we decided to open up domestically and internationally, which has also proved correct.

In the last eight years we have only taken the first step. We have scored notable achievements in developing the economy, but we still have not shaken off poverty and backwardness. Our first goal is to achieve comparative prosperity by the end of the century, or in thirteen years from now. Our next goal is to reach the level of the moderately developed countries in the first 50 years of the next century. By then the overall strength of our country will have increased, which will enable us to make more contributions to mankind and to play a greater role in solving the world’s North-South problem. These are our aspirations.

With regard to the international situation, it seems to me that relatively long-lasting peace is possible and that war can be avoided. Our two countries share this view. It was on the basis of this appraisal of the international situation that in 1978 we decided to devote all our energies to economic development. Without a peaceful environment, economic development would be out of the question. At the same time that we determined the policies for domestic development, we also made some adjustments in our foreign policy. We pursue an independent foreign policy of peace, a policy that helps to preserve world peace. We do not “play the card” of any other country; in other words we do not play the “Soviet card” or the “U.S. card”. Nor do we allow others to play the “China card”.

In analysing the world situation, we pay particular attention to Europe, because Europe is the key area determining whether there will be peace or war. For a very long time our relations with the East European countries were not normal. Having made an objective analysis of the world situation, we believe that the East and West European countries represent forces safeguarding peace. Those countries need to develop, and the more they develop, the greater force they will become for peace. Why do we say that Europe is a force for peace? Because Europe has gone through two catastrophic world wars. If there were to be a third world war, only the two superpowers would have the capacity to unleash it. And once the war began, Europe would be the first to bear the brunt of it. We are hoping for a united, strong and developed Europe. As long as the countries of Europe — I mean both Eastern and Western Europe — do not harness themselves to another country’s war chariot, war will not break out.

So we think that a relatively long period of peace is possible. If, in the first 50 years of the next century, all Europe and the countries of the Third World, including China, can make gratifying progress in developing their economies, the danger of war can truly be eliminated. We have the impression that Europe is comparatively liberal, especially about the transfer of technology; we are pleased on that score, although we are not completely satisfied. We have established the policy of developing friendly and cooperative relations with Europe, including both Eastern Europe and Western Europe. That’s not just for the purpose of developing our economy but also for the purpose of safeguarding world peace. Our policy towards the Netherlands is the same as that towards the whole European Community. We are also developing relations with Eastern Europe, which is a new policy for us.

You may not be very familiar with the history of the Chinese Communist Party. It has followed a tortuous path. For a long time the Party did good work, but it also made mistakes of various kinds. During the later period of the Great Revolution, from 1925 to 1927, Chen Duxiu made Right opportunist mistakes, which led to the defeat of the revolution. Our Party was driven underground and forced to fight a protracted war with Chiang Kai-shek. During the early 1930s Wang Ming made the mistake of “Left” opportunism, as a result of which most of our revolutionary bases were destroyed by the enemy and the revolutionary army was reduced from 300,000 to 30,000. Why did we begin the Long March? We were forced to do so. Beginning in 1935 our Party, under the correct leadership of Comrade Zedong, led the people successfully in the War Against Japanese Aggression and the War of Liberation. And in 1949 the People’s Republic of China was founded.

During the first eight years after the founding of New China we carried out the socialist transformation of ownership of the means of production and set up some basic industries. For more than twenty years after 1935 we did good work. But in 1957 we made another mistake when we expanded an anti-Rightist struggle to include as targets many persons who were not, in fact, Rightists. Then in 1958, being too impatient for development, we initiated the Great Leap Forward and established people’s communes, which were also mistakes and brought about disastrous results. It took three years for us to correct our mistakes and for things to begin to look up. We turned the economy around, but we still didn’t have a correct ideological guideline. So in 1966 came the “cultural revolution”, which lasted a whole decade.

Why am I telling you about this history? Because our present line, principles and policies were formulated after we reviewed our successes and our failures and reverses. The experience of successes is valuable, and so is the experience of mistakes and defeats. Formulating principles and policies in this way enables us to unify the thinking of the whole Party so as to achieve a new unity; unity formed on such a basis is most reliable. Some people say that we have conservative and reformist factions, but that is only conjecture on their part. The facts show that the reform is correct and very effective. If our foreign friends can all see how much has changed in China and how well we have been doing, how could our own people fail to notice? The people are discerning, and they can judge from their own experience. In the past they didn’t have enough food and clothing, but now not only are they well fed and clothed, but they have modern articles for daily use, so they are pleased. This being the case, we are not going to change our current policies. The stability of or policies reflects the stability of the Party. Recently our Party’s General Secretary resigned, which in your country would not be seen as anything extraordinary. But probably because we were not open enough in the past, any time a change occurred in China it was considered a big problem. Actually it was no big problem, and we solved it quickly.

When we say we are opposed to bourgeois liberalization, we mean we are opposed to the wholesale Westernization of China, to abandoning arty leadership and the socialist system. Since opposition to bourgeois liberalization is a long-term task, we are not going to launce a political movement but to rely on education. Besides this is not a problem that can be solved through olitical movement. All work will be carried out as usual. Next fall we are going to convene the Thirteenth Party Congress, and there we shall explain our current policies more clearly and further define the task of reforming the political structure to adapt it to economic development. There will be no change in our current principles and policies, and the policy of opening up will only expand. That will be true not only for the rest of this century but also when China has reached the level of the moderately developed countries [in the mid-21st century], and it will be even more true after that. China is stable. We have experienced many disasters, and our Party and the country have suffered many setbacks. There are some things people abroad find hard to understand; that is natural, but we know why these things happened.

(Excerpt from a talk with Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands.)