Deng Xiaoping

We Must Emancipate Our Means and Think Independently


Published: May 18, 1988
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


Of the 39 years since the People’s Republic of China was established, in the first eight we did our work well and also in the last ten, but during the intervening years of “Left” interference, things were not so good. We are pleased with our development over the past ten years. Looking back, I think we have been doing the correct thing. The Party’s Thirteenth National Congress held last year decided not only to continue to follow the established principles and policies but to go one step further in reform and opening to the outside world. We believe that as long as we carry out these principles and policies, we shall succeed. On the other hand, there are still risks ahead, and we cannot expect smooth sailing all the way. Nevertheless, we must pursue the reform, and if problems arise, we have to solve them promptly and properly. We cannot allow stagnation, which is only a dead end.

The basic principle set forth at the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of our Party was that we must emancipate our minds and think independently, formulating policies in light of our own realities. None of the works of Karl Marx or of Lenin offers a guide for building socialism in China, and conditions differ from one country to another, each having its own unique experience. So we have to think for ourselves. This is true not only in economic matters but also in political matters.

A country that wants to develop must not keep its doors closed or isolate itself. It must maintain extensive international contacts with all kinds of people, absorbing what is useful and rejecting what is harmful. We call this opening to the outside world. Domestically too we have to open wider, invigorate the economy and not be restricted by conventional thinking. Our heads used to be full of conventional ideas, but now we have broken free of them. We have been upholding Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought and keeping to the socialist road all along, but only now have we solved the question of what socialism is. Frankly, when we were copying the Soviet model of socialism we ran into many difficulties. We discovered that long ago, but we were never able to solve the problem. Now we are solving it; what we want to build is a socialism suited to conditions in China.

There is a problem here: perhaps, given the conditions in your country, you should consider whether a headlong rush to socialism is advisable. Choosing a socialist orientation is a good idea, but first of all you have to know what socialism is. Socialism is certainly not poverty. When you speak of socialism, it can only be socialism suited to conditions in Mozambique.

In short, you must always remember one point: suit your own conditions. You may want to refer to other people’s experience, but that can be useful only as background information. The world’s problems cannot all be solved in the same way. China has its own way, and Mozambique must also find its own way.

(Excerpt from a talk with President Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique.)