Deng Xiaoping

Urgent Tasks of China’s Third Generation of Collective Leadership


Published: June 16, 1989
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


The Communist Party should establish its third generation of collective leadership. Historically, our Party never had a mature central leadership before the Zunyi Meeting. Chen Duxiu, Qu Qiubai, Xiang Zhongfa, Li Lisan and Wang Ming all failed to form a capable central leadership. It was only after the Zunyi Meeting that the collective leadership of the Party began to take shape. That leadership was composed of Comrades Mao [Zedong], Liu [Shaoqi], Zhou [Enlai], Zhu [De] and Ren Bishi. After Comrade Bishi passed away, Comrade Chen Yun was added to the leadership. At the Eighth National Congress of the Party, the Central Committee established a Standing Committee composed of Mao, Liu, Zhou, Zhu, Chen and Deng [Xiaoping]. Later on, Lin Biao was added to the Standing Committee. This collective leadership lasted until the “cultural revolution”.

In the long history before the “cultural revolution”, no matter what mistakes our Party made and no matter how the composition of the leadership changed, it always remained a collective leadership with Comrade Mao Zedong as the core. That was the first generation of collective leadership.

At the Third Plenary Session of its Eleventh Central Committee, the Party established a new collective leadership — the second generation. Actually, it can be said that in this leadership I am in the key position. Ever since the establishment of this collective leadership, I have been arranging for my successor. Neither of the successors I chose retained their post for long, but at the time, given their experience in struggle, their achievements in work and their political and ideological level, they were the best choices I could make. Besides, people change.

A collective leadership must have a core; without a core, no leadership can be strong enough. The core of our first generation of collective leadership was Chairman Mao. Because of that core, the “cultural revolution” did not bring the Communist Party down. Actually, I am the core of the second generation. Because of this core, even though we changed two of our leaders, the Party’s exercise of leadership was not affected but always remained stable. The third generation of collective leadership must have a core too; all you comrades present here should be keenly aware of that necessity and act accordingly. You should make an effort to maintain the core — Comrade Jiang Zemin, as you have agreed. From the very first day it starts to work, the new Standing Committee should make a point of establishing and maintaining this collective leadership and its core.

As long as we have a good Political Bureau, and a good Standing Committee in particular, and as long as the committee is united and sets an example by working hard to build the country and by combating corruption, it can withstand all kinds of trouble. This incident showed that the working class, the peasantry and the Liberation Army are reliable, and so are the intellectuals, who are part of the working class. But if the central leadership had been in disarray, it would have been hard to say what would have happened. That was crucial. The destiny of the country, the Party and the people hinges on a strong collective leadership such as I have described.

I told Comrades Li Peng and Yao Yilin that once the new leaders began to work in an orderly way, I would no longer concern myself with your affairs or interfere in them. I also told them that that was my decision regarding my political role. Of course, if you want to consult me, I’m not going to turn you down, but it won’t be the way it used to be. I hope that after the new Political Bureau and its Standing Committee are established, they will not announce that I am going to play any particular role. Why? Not because I am modest or anything else. But as things stand now, if I carried too much weight, it would not be good for the country and the Party, and some day it would be dangerous. Many countries base their China policies on the prospect of my illness or death. I have been aware of this for many years. It is unhealthy and very risky to base the destiny of a country on the prestige of one or two individuals. That’s all right so long as nothing happens; but if anything happens, the situation will be hard to handle.

Once the new leading group is formed, you must be responsible for everything, that is, for your mistakes and for your successes. That way you can work independently, which is good because it means the new collective leadership can temper itself. After all, our old method was not very successful. I am 85 years old, and at this advanced age I should know what’s right for me to do. My chief concern is the overall interest. If a person’s presence adversely affects stability and sound development, that will be a problem. If there is something I can do, I shall be more than ready to help from the sidelines, but under no circumstances should I be given any official title.

This incident has shown that the crucial question is whether we should keep to the socialist road and uphold leadership by the Party. The Western imperialists are trying to make all socialist countries abandon the socialist road, to bring them in the end under the rule of international monopoly capital and set them on the road to capitalism. We have to take a clear-cut stand against this adverse current. Because if we did not uphold socialism, we would eventually become, at best, a dependency of other countries, and it would be even more difficult for us to develop. The international market has already been fully occupied, and it will be very hard for us to get in. Only socialism can save China, and only socialism can develop China.

In this connection, the rebellion has been a great enlightenment to us; it is important because it sobered us up. China would have no future if it did not follow the socialist road. China is a poor country, so why is it that people regard it as forming the “great triangle” with the United States and the Soviet Union? Because China is an independent country. Why do we say we are independent? Because we are trying to build socialism, a socialism suited to our own conditions. Otherwise, we should have to act in accordance with the will of the Americans, or of people in other developed countries or in the Soviet Union. How much independence would we have then? At the moment, the media worldwide are putting pressure on us; we should take it calmly and not allow ourselves to be provoked. Nonetheless, we should manage our own affairs well; this incident has really revealed enough of our mistakes! We have indeed made mistakes. And they are not minor ones.

Next I want to talk about what work we should do in the near future. We cannot wait until we have completely quelled the rebellion. We should, on the one hand, work to do that and, on the other hand, sort out the mistakes we have made, find ways to remedy them and identify the urgent problems. We cannot deal with everything at once. If at this time we start a discussion on a theoretical question, such as the market and planning, not only will it not help stabilize the situation but it will delay our work. Right now we should concentrate on doing some things to satisfy the people. At the same time we should quickly address the problems that prevent us from moving ahead.

First, economic development should not slow down. We should work hard to achieve as high a growth rate as possible. Of course, the rate should not be so high as we originally planned. At present, the main problem is that our basic industries are weak and that we don’t have enough electricity and raw and semi-finished materials. Moreover, small enterprises have used up materials that should have been allocated to large ones. As a result, the state has suffered heavy losses. When we address the question of economic slowdown this time, we should sort out the urgent problems and solve them without hesitation. Hesitation causes delay. We should quickly set about doing everything that we are sure is correct and that helps us develop. We should try to expand the economy at a satisfactory speed in the next 11 and a half years. When we have redoubled the GNP in real terms, the people will see that our country and our socialist cause are flourishing. The Central Committee and the State Council must be capable and must have authority. How can they function without authority?

I propose that a body be established to study the strategy and programme for development in the first 50 years of the next century, in particular to work out a plan for developing basic industries, communications and transportation. Measures should be taken to ensure steady and sustained development. As I said earlier, after this incident, as long as we conscientiously review our past and consider our future, the country will develop not only in a better, more stable way but also faster. It is possible for us to turn this bad thing to good account. That body should also study the problem of agriculture, which may eventually be solved through science. Science is a great thing, and we should recognize its importance.

Second, we should do some things to satisfy the people. There are chiefly two things: one is to carry out the reform and opening to the outside world with greater daring, and the other is to move swiftly to punish corruption.

The work related to opening to the outside world should be done mainly by the State Council. The Council should make its determination to open wider known abroad; it has to have the courage to do that. In general, it should allow enterprises to make less profits and should not be afraid of losses. It should be prepared to do anything as long as it is in our long-term interest. It should do more to facilitate reform and opening to the outside. Joint ventures involving foreign capital should be set up, and local areas should be allowed to establish development zones. If we absorb more foreign capital, it will surely benefit foreign businessmen, but we too shall benefit eventually. For example, we can collect taxes, introduce professional services for foreign-funded enterprises and establish some profitable enterprises ourselves. In this way our economy will be invigorated.

Since foreigners are afraid that we shall close our doors again, we should do some things to demonstrate that our policies of reform and opening to the outside world will not change but will be further implemented. The highest objective of our political restructuring is to keep the environment stable. I have told Americans that China’s overriding interest is in stability. Anything that helps maintain stability is good. We have never backed down from our position of upholding the Four Cardinal Principles. The Americans’ criticisms and rumors are nothing. Cutting back overstaffed organizations and strengthening the legal system are both components of the reform.

As for punishing corruption, we should handle at least ten to twenty major cases publicly and without delay. In this incident there were no slogans against reform and opening to the outside world, but one of the slogans frequently chanted was the demand to combat corruption. Of course, certain persons used this slogan as a pretext for misleading the people. But for our part, if we do not punish corruption, especially among high-level Party leaders, we run the risk of failing to rectify the Party and to achieve our strategic goals. The new leaders should first of all address this problem, which is also an important part of our efforts to rectify the Party. While you are labouring to build the country, how can other people be allowed to profit from corruption? I hope you will especially discuss this question.

We should carry out reform and open to the outside world and at the same time punish corruption. When people see that these two things are combined, they will have a clearer understanding of our policies and give them greater support.

Third, we should quell the rebellion completely. This is a fine opportunity to dismantle all the illegal organizations in China; it is really a good thing. If we handle it correctly, we shall achieve a great victory. We should not be soft on people who are guilty of the most heinous crimes. Of course, we still need to distinguish between right and wrong and between more serious and less serious crimes, to take facts as the basis for judgement and the law as the criterion, and to be lenient with those who confess and severe with those who refuse to. Specific measures can vary so long as they conform with these policies.

I hope you will concentrate on accomplishing the three things I have just mentioned. One more point: comrades on the Standing Committee should pay close attention to building the Party. It is high time that this Party was rectified; there can be no delay.

(Excerpt from a talk with leading members of the Central Committee of the CPC. )