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| Deng Xiaoping Economic Reforms Essay

Nobody could have imagined the level of economic achievement China would make after thirty years from 1979. The death of the then Chinese leader Mae Zedong in September 1977 brought about a leadership struggle, which resulted into the fall of four top leaders, referred to as the ‘Gang of Four’. It is at the expense of Mao’s designated heir Hua Guofeng that Deng Xiaoping rose to power in 1980. This was after the former was accused of following Mao Zedong’s left policies. Deng became the Chairman of the Military commission. Before that, China had been subjected to bitter political upheavals that had resulted from the Cultural Revolution of 1965-1975 (Shen 2). Deng Xiaoping introduced the “four Modernizations” in science, industry, agriculture, and defense with the help of his counterpart Zhao Ziyang. The overall economic reforms began with the Chinese Communist Party in December 1978, which was headed by Deng Xiaoping (Research Department of Party Literature 1).

The rise of Deng gave birth to a new thought to repair the tattered legitimacy of Mao and also resolved the problem of suppressing socialism in China that was adopted before. Deng Xiaoping admitted that not Marx or Lenin would solve the problem of underdevelopment today, but rather it was the responsibility of each country to adopt socialism according to its own condition. He added that there cannot be fixed models of development (Kau and Marsh 443). He said that Communist’s main purpose was to eliminate poverty through emancipation of productive forces. The party did not understand the theory of Marxism and how to build it. For him, the fundamental task for China was economic development, which would only require continued innovation in technology, increased productivity, enhancement of quality products, and competence in management. Generally, his primary emphases were based on forces of production, which later became the justifications for his economic reforms (Chang 377).

Contrary to Mao, Deng adapted the classical Marxism. He argued that Marxism could be consolidated only through modernizing and developing the productive forces. This was due to the fact that China’s level of socialism was still very low since it had not enough time to develop Marxism. It meant that China was still in the underdeveloped or in the primary stage of socialism. This was a strong basis for Deng to explain the past mistakes and bring justification for his economic reforms (Chang 377).

Much of credit for China’s development is given to Xiaoping as a result of his reforms that propelled China to become an economic giant from the time he took leadership. In 1977, he gave a speech that clearly indicated that he wanted to change the concerns of the social organ from political to economical with an aim of providing China with positive economic benefits. He emphasized on professionalism and results. In 1978, during the Third Plenary session of the Eleventh Central committee, his philosophy gained much support and was accepted as desirable. This was the turning point of China’s policies of social and economic advancement (Chow 32).

Deng proposed three stages of development, which would foresee China becoming economically stable. According to him, China was behind the industrial development by three decades and a nationwide task for the following years was a trajectory for economic modernization. The success or failure of the task to be undertaken was the determinant of the China’s destiny for the generation that was to follow (Kau and Marsh 443).

The first stage was to double China’s per Capita Gross National product (GNP) from US$250 to US$500 (Chow 32). The aim of the agenda was to ensure people had adequate food and clothing. The objective had been achieved by 1988. The objective of the second stage was to double the GDP to US$1000 coming the year 2000. Its main aim was to eradicate poverty and achieve comparative prosperity. The third stage would be achieved by the years 2030 to 2050, where the country’s GDP would rise to US$1 trillion. With industrialization at the peak, China would have achieved equality with moderately developed countries. For the above objective to be achieved, Deng proposed a number of reforms that were to be adopted (Chang 377). The document titled ‘On Reform of Economic Structures’ outlines the major reforms that were to pioneer the development process in China.

Common Reforms of Deng Xiaoping

The reform of command economy was the main obstacle to China’s economic development. The command emphasized on quantity rather than quality. The command economy was hampered with bureaucratic management that had so many staffs, bunch of organizations, complicated procedures, and was inefficient. This meant it was not compatible with large scale production. At the same time, the pricing procedure was also a big problem. The prices were controlled and dictated by the state. This led the state to subsidize the prices so as to cover up for the disparity that arose between selling and purchasing prices. For Xiaoping, the best way to manage this was to give power to the local governments and state owned enterprises. The economy would, therefore, be free from mismanagement from political bureaucracy (Kau and Marsh 443).

Deng advocated for the necessity of the country to trade with the outside world. This was contrary to Mao’s leadership, which relied on autarkic policies and isolation. He said that China had to learn from other countries for it to attain the required development. He was against blind opposition of foreign things and interactions. Under this reform, China would trade with other countries of the world and sell its capital and technology. He added that technology, science, and other techniques were universal to every society; therefore, they should not be termed as capitalistic. This move, however, would not tolerate violation of national sovereignty and dignity of China (Chang 387).

The reform of enhancement of Science and Technology was a transition from Maoism. He identified science as a primary productive force that would result into rapid development of the entire economy of the country. He urged for allocation of many resources to it. The reform advocated for scientific learning and research. This would be achieved by expanding education, even if it means slowing down activities in other fields (Chang 387).

The reform of Treatment of Intellectuals contrasted with the Mao’s treatment of intellectuals. Mao made the intellectuals politically suspect and mistreated them. Deng dismissed this perception of the intellectuals and showed that all people were equal as far as they were working towards the good of the country. They should no longer be termed as intellectuals or experts. He instead urged to give them the advantage of salary, ranks, and respect. The Chinese students were to be encouraged to return to China regardless of their political stands and attitude. His reform proposed an extensive research aimed to increase employment opportunities for those who were outside the country. The step was aimed at making them go back to China and help rebuild their country (Chang 387).

Another reform was to give incentives to workers. Deng advocated for equitable distribution of material incentives to all working people. This was supposed to make them work even harder since they were benefiting directly from their labor. He maintained that revolution was only to happen in the presence of material benefit, but not just working in selfless sacrifice (Chang 388). The Promotion of Achievers’ reform advocated for reward and special treatment of the high achievers and gifted individuals who greatly contributed to economic development. Such rewards included, but were not limited to, promotion without hesitation, increase of wages, and no restraint in their places of work (Chang 388).

The reform of some people getting rich was another reform of Deng. It denied the workability of equality among individuals; therefore, it advocated for the disparity in salaries. Those who worked harder got higher salary than others. This also motivated others to work harder. The rich served as an impressive example to others, which would ensure the economic rise. When this was achieved, Deng saw it as a good idea for the government to impose taxation for equal redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. He suggested that in the year 2000, the gap between the poor and the rich would be reduced, since the country would have stabilized with a GDP of US$1000 (Chang 388).

The rejection of Western democracy was a reform aimed at emancipation of China from western rule. He advocated for China not to be a part of those who worshipped the western policies of democracy, human rights, and freedom. He termed them as unchecked bourgeois liberalizations, which were bridges to backslide and roads to turmoil. To him, western democracy was an effective anarchy that had no space for individualism (Chang 389).

The Socialist Democracy was a reform that was to make China have its socialist democracy instead of copying it from the West. He regarded social democracy as the one where the interests of an individual were subordinate to those of the collective and long term. In this system, power was to be monopolized by one party who was to coordinate the long term interests of others. The reform was contrary to the policies of Mao, whose ambition was centered at transforming the consciousness of each and every individual (Tisdell 271). The reform allowed for power transition to lower classes of people, including peasants. This would enable the masses to have power, exercise it in criticizing their leaders, and make leadership suggestions. Deng’s reforms had objectives of developing the democracy gradually with an aim of retaining the stability of the country. Democracy to him depended on the level of education of people. The reform then advocated for full participation of Chinese people in political issues when their education increased. This was a major boost to democracy (Tisdell 271).

Thus, it is evident that China would have stuck in the political and economic rut after 1977 without the Deng’s reforms. It is observed that the process of rebuilding China’s economy was an achievement that took relatively short time. The reforms were implemented gradually, beginning with the rural areas and extending to the urban areas, and afterwards, they encompassed the whole economy. Though there have been developments of new stages in the growing of China, the basic goal remains the same as that of the reform of 1979. The Chinese Communist party is still in force to improve the living standards of the people of China (Tisdell 271).

The reforms were tried in a particular region or locality, and the results were observed. The success of the structure made it be extended to other sectors of the economy. This was Deng’s strategy of achieving national economic success. Deng got support from Chinese Communist Party and was able to advance his reforms to gain support of everybody. This became possible because the policies proposed by the Chinese Communist Party before 1977 did not yield any results because the economic systems had become very complex. Deng also adopted political tactics of implying that he wanted to give dominance to the party in China. As a result, he secured positions in the party leadership (Qian and Wu 38).

Deng’s reforms also brought substantial global and economic benefits. The reforms boosted global economic and political instability. China has now become a new global economic centre, making the neighboring countries of Australia abandon the oversea market for their international trade. The Deng’s reforms made China a key player in the foreign markets, international trade and exchange. However, the China’s domestic markets have expanded greatly during the period of undergoing the reform process. Reforms made by Deng Xiaoping have made China a top economic superpower (Tisdell 1).

Deng Xiaoping’s introduction of reforms brought magnificent economic growth. The growth resulted into human development, such as life expectancy, income distribution, reduction of poverty among others. On the other hand, the reform policies had some negative impacts. The agriculture performance brought hardships for the poor citizens to reach the basic services in the social setting. Industrialization in the rural areas negatively affected the environment. In areas where there were failures in the market, the state failed to assume leadership, leading to slowing down of the social progress. Other effects of the reform policies were corruption and neglect of some parts of China which were not developed (Tisdell 1).


As Deng and Zhou indicated, change is inevitable. In the coming years, China will be far much ahead; more that it was in the starting of the reform process. As China is growing day by day, greater emphasis will be put on factors that affect human welfare than it was the case in 1978. Reforms by Deng will be significant in achieving future plans, though they will be adjusted to accommodate the international and global demands. The signs of China’s economic recovery have been observed from the current economic recession. It is no doubt that China will engineer the global economic growth for years to come.

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