Deng Xiao Ping's Reforms

Deng Xiaoping was able to rise to power in 1978 despite being striped of his position in the Chinese Communist Party several times. Before we can study his reforms, it is necessary that we learn more about his journey to the top of the Chinese Communist Party for it would be impossible for him to bring about his reforms if he was not to be the premier of the People’s Republic of China.

Deng Xiao Ping had been born into a family of a prosperous landowner under the name of Deng Xiansheng and spent his childhood in relative comfort. When Deng Xiao Ping became 15 and graduated from Chongqing Preparatory School, he would go overseas to France to study. Before he was sent off in a ship to France, his father asked him what he hoped to learn from France. Deng Xiao Ping’s reply was,” To learn knowledge and truth from the west in order to save china.” He was taught to say these words from his teacher, showing that his former Chinese education had already develop the will to help China. Although he went to France to study, he had to spend most of his time working there to get money for food and other necessities. He worked in a variety of jobs in France. Most of his jobs had brutal working conditions and the workers would get injured very easily. He barely made enough money to survive. It was from here that Deng Xiao Ping first learnt of the cruelty of a capitalist system of government. He also learnt of Marxism-Leninism from France. During his time in France, he also joins various Chinese communist organizations like the Chinese Communist Youth League. He later returns to China in 1926.

He, like several other prominent leaders in the CCP, had participated in the Long March and did so under the role of chief secretary. By the end of the March, he had assumed the role of Director of the war of resistance against Japanese aggression. Under this position he assisted various campaigns to resist the Japanese and later defeat the Kuomintang. He would later lead the anti-rightist campaign to get rid of the critiques identified through the hundred flowers campaign.

Deng Xiaoping would later be appointed to implement reforms to reverse the harmful effects of Mao’s Great Leap Forward which also forced Mao to step down as state chairman of the people’s republic of china. As Deng Xiaoping’s reforms started working such as creating a free market for farmers and incentive bonuses, the economy was starting to recover. This was also the time around which Deng Xiao Ping made his famous statement-"Whether a cat is black or white makes no difference. As long as it catches mice, it is a good cat." This statement was meant to mean that it does not matter where the idea originates from as long as the idea helps China Mao saw Deng Xiaoping’s effective reforms as a threat to his rule and put Deng Xiaoping under house arrest during the Cultural Revolution. He would later return to power after Zhou Enlai fell ill due to cancer and persuaded Mao to bring Deng Xiao Ping to power who Zhou had chosen as his successor as the Premier. Even though he was brought back to power as vice-premier, the Cultural Revolution had not ended yet. He would later be exiled and removed from power following Zhou’s death mainly due to the Gang of four seeing Deng Xiaoping as a threat and also due to the method he employed to deal with the protestors in Tiananmen Square.

Following Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping would again rise to power with the help of his supporters within the party and would soon take over Hua Guofeng and become the premier of China. From then onwards, Deng Xiaoping was finally able to implement his reforms without hindrance.

Deng Xiaoping’s plans for reforms could be summarized by the plans of the four modernizations. He hoped to modernize the areas of agriculture, industry, technology and defense. To bring about these modernizations, it was necessary to first implement economic reforms to generate enough surplus to fuel the process of modernization. At first, Deng Xiaoping’s biggest challenge to his economic reforms was to motivate the workers and farmers of the nation. The communist system in China had caused a lack of motivation in the people as their income is not based on how hard they work. Deng Xiaoping saw that it was necessary to motivate the workers in order to generate enough profits to modernize China. Thus, we can divide Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms into 2 phases.

The first phase was from late 1970s to early 1980s. The main goal of this shorter phase was to generate profits in China that was large enough to modernize China and bring about his other reforms. His reforms in this phase include the integration and implementation of the Contract Responsibilities System into the Township and Village Enterprises and opening up of trade to the world. The contract responsibilities system meant that the managers of the Township and Village Enterprises were made to be responsible for the profits and losses of their enterprise and only the people of the enterprise would share the loss or profit of its enterprise. This meant that the state no longer shares their losses and profits but instead the various enterprises share profits and losses. This was effective in motivating workers as the local managers would pressurize the workers and farmers to work hard as they would want their enterprise to make as much profits as possible. As these enterprises were also a social group, farmers and workers were pressurized by each other to work hard in order to not be labeled a ‘slacker’. The quota for producing goods was greatly reduced under Deng Xiaoping. This meant that fewer goods were taken away by the state and the enterprises could easily produce more than enough good which they could sell in the free market, which Deng Xiaoping had opened up, and make profits. This reduced quota allowed the enterprises to make profits rapidly and improved the standards of living in China. These reforms were so successful that China’s poverty rate went from 53% before Mao’s death to 12% following Deng Xiaoping’s first phase of reforms in 1981.

The second phase of economic reforms brought about Deng Xiaoping involved the creation of a proper system and reducing the role of the state in resource allocation. Deng Xiaoping had done this through the implementation of a dual track pricing system.

The early phase had already changed the market of agriculture and other goods emphasized during the great leap forward into a dual track economic system mainly due to the introduction of as free market for these products. A dual track economy refers to an economy that uses both a planned and a market economy. This meant that all products had 2 prices, one under the planned economy and one under the market economy. This innovation of having a intermediate stage before transforming China’s economy into a market economy was the key to the success of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms. A dual track pricing system meant that peasants could buy the cheaper but limited products which were priced through a planned economy while and buy more products at a higher price through the market economy. This way, no one would be worse off by the integration of a market economy into China while some people would still be able to improve through the newly implemented market economy. Also, this economy meant that the citizens could enjoy cheaper prices while still be able to sell their products through the open market to foreigners at higher prices. As the price of products in a market economy was regulated through market equilibrium, the prices of the products through the planned economy could be more effectively determined using the prices in the market economy as a guide. The enterprises would soon start producing a variety of products and the dual track pricing system was implemented to various products. This also allowed the formation of private enterprises in various sectors and private enterprises could be more and more involved in the economy and allowed entrepreneurship.

By the end of 1980, China’s food shortage problems were solved and the agriculture sector was modernized. Deng Xiaoping tried to modernize the industries by implementing special economic zones in various regions. A special economic zone meant that the economic laws differed at those areas to make them more business-friendly. Businesses soon flourished in these areas and the industries were slowly getting modernized in these areas.

Technology was modernized by the spread of propaganda that encouraged intellectuals who were discouraged during Mao’s rule. The emerging intellectuals would help modernize technology in China. Also, studying abroad was encouraged. This way, China was able to ‘steal’ technology from other countries and use it to modernize its own technology.

China’s defense capabilities were modernized through developing programs for military training and encouraging technological advances for military use.

It must be noted that Deng Xiao Ping was no genius innovator who thought of such effective policies for reforms in China. Instead, he was merely a person who was open to ideas among a group of conservative people in the Chinese Communist Party. The goal of four modernizations was originally planned by Zhou Enlai. Local Leaders had suggested various reforms and Deng Xiaoping did not reject these ideas outright but viewed them and tried to implement those which he found plausible.


This article is very interesting
it offered a different perspective putting deng in a different light and offered a better understanding of the leader.

August 17, 2009 at 6:19 PM  


August 17, 2009 at 6:19 PM  

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August 17, 2009 at 6:19 PM  

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August 17, 2009 at 6:20 PM  


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