the leadership of deng xiaoping -- 1/21/20

Today's selection -- from Following the Leader by David M. Lampton. The leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the successor to Mao Zedong who is credited with the adoption of capitalism by China and that country's emergence as a global economic power:

"Although Deng did not possess the unbridled and quixotically exer­cised power that Mao did, when it came to strategic decisions, once he had listened to respected colleagues, Deng would weigh in authorita­tively and decisively. The scale and consequences of these decisions were often enormous. As Cheng Li put it, Deng 'felt no need to consult think tanks when making decisions. ... Indeed, his most significant decisions ... have all been attributed to Deng's visionary thinking and political courage.' A notable illustration of Deng's dominance was his May 17, 1989, decision to declare martial law and deploy troops in Beijing -- a choice made in consultation with an extraconstitutional cabal of older comrades, most of whom held no formal posts. Later in the same day, Deng's fateful decision was presented by Premier Li Peng to the Politburo Standing Committee as a fait accompli, and the Stand­ing Committee (the body presumed to decide such things) was simply told how to proceed. Li informed the nominal head of the party, Zhao Ziyang, and his Standing Committee colleagues that 'the decision on martial law ... was made by Comrade [Deng] Xiaoping at this morn­ing's meeting. I support Comrade Xiaoping's views on martial law. I believe that the topic for the present meeting is not whether martial law should or should not be imposed but, rather, what steps to use in carrying it out.' Professor Ezra Vogel reports that earlier in the day, at the meeting where Deng announced his decision, 'When some in the room expressed worries that foreigners would react negatively to any use of force, Deng replied that swift action was required and "Western­ers would forget." '

Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter at the arrival ceremony for the Vice Premier of China.

"In addition to this decision, several other pivotal choices by Deng come to mind, including his decision to suppress the 1979 Democracy Wall movement ... Deng explained to visiting Americans at the time, 'As to the so-called Democracy Wall or the demonstrations and sit-ins, etc., this can't represent the genuine feeling of our people.' In another example of resolute decision making, the one-child policy, Deng was absolutely convinced that the PRC's per capita income could not be sufficiently raised without limiting the birth of mouths to feed ... It seemed self­-evident to Deng that individual choice should take a back seat to collec­tive needs and the imperative of economic growth, and that to move in this intrusive direction was within his discretion.

"Turning to the issue of Taiwan, while his successors hesitated to be seen as weak on an issue with so much combustible nationalism sur­rounding it, Deng was sufficiently secure to be ambivalent, perhaps even relaxed about the issue -- certainly willing to defer conflict over the issue to the indefinite future. A very senior Taiwanese academic sum­marized Deng's conversation with him in the late 1980s, describing Deng's seemingly flexible thoughts on the island: 'I talked with Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Ziyang, and Jiang Zemin, and conversations with Deng were the most useful. In 1987 Deng asked, "You grew up in Taiwan?" [and wanted to know] why the DPP wanted independence. [I replied,] because [Taiwan was] a colony, the KMT was very corrupt, and [Tai­wanese were] not treated very well. Deng said, "Yeah, looks like [we should] leave cross-Strait [relations] to the next generation," and he started eating.' "



David M. Lampton


Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping


University of California Press


Copyright 2014 by The Regents of the University of California


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