Deng Xiaoping

Address To Officers At the Rank of General and Above In Command of the Troops Enforcing Martial Law In Beijing


Published: June 9, 1989
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


Comrades, you have been having a hard time!

First of all, I should like to express my deep grief over the officers and men of the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Armed Police Force and the Public Security Police who have died heroically in this struggle. I also want to express my sincere solicitude for the thousands of PLA, PAPF and PSP officers and men who have been wounded. I extend my cordial greetings to all your officers and men who have taken part in the struggle.

Let us stand in silent tribute to the martyrs!

On this occasion I should like to say a few words.

This disturbance would have occurred sooner or later. It was determined by both the international environment and the domestic environment. It was bound to occur, whether one wished it or not; the only question was the time and the scale. That it has occurred now is to our advantage, especially because we have a large number of veteran comrades who are still in good health. They have experienced many disturbances and understand the possible consequences of different ways of dealing with them. They support the resolute action taken against the rebellion. Some comrades do not understand that action for the time being, but they will come to understand it and support the decision of the central authorities.

The April 26th editorial in People’s Daily described the disturbance as turmoil. The word “turmoil” is quite appropriate. It is this word that some people object to and are trying to change. But facts show that the assessment is accurate. It was also inevitable that the turmoil should grow into a counter-revolutionary rebellion. We have a number of veteran comrades, including some in the army, who are still in good health, and a number of other leading cadres who joined the revolutionary ranks in different periods. It has therefore been relatively easy to cope with the incident that has broken out.

The major difficulty in handling it has been that we have never encountered a situation in which a handful of bad people were mingled with so many young students and crowds of onlookers. Since for the moment we were not able to distinguish between innocent and guilty, we could scarcely take the actions that should have been taken. Without the support of so many veteran Party comrades, it would have been hard even to determine the nature of the incident. Some comrades did not understand its nature and thought that we were only dealing with the masses. In fact, we were dealing not only with people who merely could not distinguish between right and wrong, but also with a number of rebels and many persons who were the dregs of society. They tried to subvert our state and our Party. This is the crux of the matter. If we don’t understand this fundamental question, we shall not be clear about the nature of the incident. I believe that if we work at it, we can win the support of the overwhelming majority of Party comrades for our assessment of the nature of the incident and for the measures we have taken to cope with it.

The nature of the incident should have been obvious from the very beginning. The handful of bad people had two basic slogans: overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system. Their goal was to establish a bourgeois republic, an out-and-out vassal of the West. Naturally, we accepted the people’s demand for a fight against corruption. We even had to accept as well-intentioned the so-called anti-corruption slogans of the bad individuals. Of course, these slogans were simply pretexts, and their ultimate aim was to overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system.

Why is it that in the course of putting down the rebellion so many of our comrades laid down their lives or were wounded or robbed of their arms? This too was also because good people and bad were mixed together, so that we could not take the resolute measures we should have taken. Handling this incident was a very rigorous political test for our army. Facts have shown that the PLA men passed the test. If our tanks had pressed forward through the crowd, it would have made it impossible for the entire nation to distinguish between right and wrong. I therefore want to express our thanks to the PLA officers and men for their handling of the rebellion. The losses were grievous, but they helped win the people’s sympathy and support and enabled those who had confused right and wrong to change their point of view. From those losses everyone could tell what the PLA men were like, whether they turned Tian’anmen into a sea of blood and who it was that shed blood. Once these questions had been clarified, we were able to gain the initiative. It is a grievous thing that many comrades laid down their lives, but if people analyse the course of the incident objectively, they will have to admit that the PLA is the people’s own army. This loss of life will also help the people understand the methods we used in the struggle. From now on, whenever the PLA takes measures to cope with a problem it encounters, it will be able to win the people’s support. By the way, the men should not allow their weapons to be seized again.

In short, this was a test and you passed it. There are not many veteran comrades in the army, and most of the soldiers are only 18 or 20, but they are still true men of the people’s army. When their lives were in danger, they stood firm, not forgetting the people, the Party’s teachings or the interests of the country. They went to their death unflinchingly, worthy of the title of heroes. By passing the test, I mean that the army remained an army of the people. The army passed the test in respect to its nature as a people’s army. It retains the traditions of our former Red Army. It was by no means easy to pass this genuine political test, a test of life and death! This shows that the people’s army is truly a great wall of steel guarding the Party and the country. It shows that no matter how great the losses it suffers, and no matter how one generation of leaders is replaced by another, our army will always be an army led by the Party, the defender of the country, the guardian of socialism, the protector of the people’s interests, and the most beloved men. At the same time, we should never forget how ruthless our enemies are. We should not grant them the least forgiveness.

The outbreak of this incident has given us much food for thought, impelling us to reflect soberly on the past and the future. Perhaps this bad thing will enable us to progress more steadily and even faster than before in carrying out the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, to correct our errors more quickly and give better play to our advantages. Today I can’t elaborate on a wide range of topics, but I should like to put forward some questions to be discussed.

The first question is whether the line, principles and policies formulated at the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, and our “three-stage” development strategy are correct. Has their correctness been placed in doubt because of the turmoil? Is our goal a “Left” one? Will it remain our goal in future? Clear-cut, positive replies must be given to these important questions. Our first goal of doubling the gross national product has been achieved. Our second goal of doubling the GNP again is to be achieved in 12 years. In another 50 years, we are to reach the level of the moderately developed countries. That is our strategic goal. In this connection, I believe our judgement of our capabilities is not a “Left” one, and the goal we have set is not overambitious. Therefore, as the reply to the first question, we should say that the strategic goal we have set cannot be described as unattainable, at least not now. It will be something wonderful for a country with a population of 1.5 billion to reach the level of a moderately developed country in 61 years. We should be able to attain that goal. We should not say that we have set a wrong strategic goal merely because of the recent incident.

The second question is whether the “one central task, two basic points” proposition set forth at the Party’s Thirteenth National Congress is correct. In particular, are the two basic points, namely, keeping to the Four Cardinal Principles and carrying out the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, wrong or not? I have been pondering over this question recently. I think they are not wrong. It is not wrong to keep to the Four Cardinal Principles. If we have made a mistake, it is that we have not kept to them consistently enough and inculcated them as basic ideas in the people, the students and all cadres and Party members. The recent incident was in the nature of a conflict between bourgeois liberalization and adherence to the Four Cardinal Principles. True, we have talked about keeping to those principles, conducting ideological and political work and combating bourgeois liberalization and mental pollution. But we have not talked about those things consistently, and there has been no action or even any mention of the need for action. The mistake was not in the principles themselves, but in the failure to keep to them consistently enough and to do a good job in education and in ideological and political work.

In my speech at the People’s Political Consultative Conference on New Year’s Day, 1980, I explained the need to do four things, including to maintain the pioneering spirit of hard struggle. We have a tradition of hard struggle. During the next 60 or 70 years we must make a point of educating people about the need for hard work and plain living. The more developed our country is, the more we need the pioneering spirit of hard struggle. Encouraging such a spirit will also help to overcome corruption. After the founding of the People’s Republic, we always stressed the need to build the country in that spirit. Later, when things were slightly better, we encouraged a high level of consumption, which resulted in the spread of extravagance and waste in every field. It was because of this, because of our poor performance in ideological and political work and because of the incomplete legal system, that violations of the law and discipline, corrupt practices, etc. all came about. I have told foreign guests that during the last ten years our biggest mistake was made in the field of education, primarily in ideological and political education — not just of students but of the people in general. We didn’t tell them enough about the need for hard struggle, about what China was like in the old days and what kind of a country it was to become. That was a serious error on our part.

What about the other basic point, keeping to the policies of reform and opening to the outside world? Is that wrong or not? It is not wrong. How could we have achieved the success we have today without the reform and the open policy? During the last ten years living standards have been raised considerably, or in other words, our economy has been raised to a new stage. Although there have been inflation and other problems, we must not underestimate our achievements in the past decade. Naturally, in the process of carrying out these policies many bad influences from the West are making themselves felt in China. We have never underestimated this trend. In the early 1980s when the special economic zones were established, I told comrades in Guangdong that we should do two types of work at the same time: carrying out the policies of reform and opening on the one hand and cracking down on economic crime on the other, including ideological and political work. This conforms to the doctrine that everything has two aspects. But looking back over the years, we can see obvious deficiencies in what we did. We failed to attach equal importance to both types of work, and there was no proper coordination between them. I have made this point clear in the hope that it will be helpful in formulating our principles and policies in future.

In addition, we must continue to combine economic planning with regulation by market forces. This should never be changed. In our practical work during the period of readjustment we have more planning, while under other circumstances we can have more market regulation and more flexibility. The combination of planning and market regulation will be continued. The important thing is that we must never turn China back into a country that keeps its doors closed. A closed-door policy would be greatly to our disadvantage; we would not even have quick access to information. People say that information is important, right? It certainly is. If an administrator has no access to information, it’s as if he was purblind and hard of hearing and had a stuffed nose. And on no account must we go back to the old practice of keeping the economy under rigid control. I should like the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau to study this whole matter. It is an urgent problem that has to be tackled.

This is a summary of our work over the last ten years. Our basic ideas, from the development strategy to the principles and policies, including the policies of reform and opening to the outside, are correct. If our efforts have fallen short in any respect, it is that we have not done enough to implement those polices. We have encountered more difficulties in the reform than in the opening process. In the reform of the political structure, one thing is certain: we must adhere to the system of the people’s congresses instead of practising the separation of the judicial, executive and legislative powers on the American pattern. As a matter of fact, not all the Western countries follow the pattern of separation of powers. The United States has blamed us for suppressing the students. But didn’t the U.S. itself call out police and troops to deal with student strikes and disturbances, and didn’t that lead to arrests and bloodshed? It suppressed the students and the people, while we put down a counter-revolutionary rebellion. What right has it to criticize us? In future, however, we must make sure that no adverse trend is allowed to reach that point.

What should we do from now on? In my opinion, we should continue to follow unswervingly the basic line, principles and policies we have formulated. There should be no changes in them except for a few changes of wording, if necessary. This question of what we should do from now on has been raised, and I hope you will give it careful consideration. As for where investment should go and where funds should be used, I am in favour of applying them to strengthen basic industries and agriculture. We should increase our investment in basic industries — raw and semi-finished materials, transportation and energy. We should keep on doing that for 10 to 20 years. We should increase our investment in these industries even if it means going into debt. Borrowing money is also a way of opening to the outside. In this regard we should display more courage; we won’t make any major mistakes. We can accomplish many things if we have more electric power and build more railways, highways and ports. Foreigners predict that we shall need 120 million tons of steel a year in future. Our present output is about 60 million tons, only half that figure. If we renovate the existing enterprises and produce 20 million more tons of steel, we shall be able to curtail the import of steel products. Borrowing money abroad for this purpose is also part of reform and opening. The question before us now is not whether the policies of reform and opening are right or whether they should be implemented but how to carry them out, what to open and what to close.

We should unswervingly carry out the line, principles and policies formulated since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee. We should carefully review our experience, keep on doing what is right, correct what is wrong and make up for what is inadequate. In short, we should learn from the past and look to the future.

That’s all I have to say on this occasion.