Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the death of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. As can be seen from the Internet, many Chinese remember the day and are spontaneously commemorating Deng, one of the greatest men of the last century.
Deng was one of the most distinguished politicians of the 20th century, and is addressed by the Chinese government respectfully as the “chief designer of reform and opening-up.” As time goes by, historical evaluations of him may be higher than that. During the years in which Deng profoundly influenced China from the beginning of reform and opening-up until the 1990s, he received plenty of praise, but was also a controversial figure at the same time. Looking back, as more time has elapsed, the more overwhelming the compliments and admiration toward him both in and outside China are.
The pursuit of independence and prosperity has been the main theme of modern China with a majority of policies during the period focused on it. Whoever could help realize the nation’s modernization on the basis of industrialization is a positive character that has made great contributions to China.
In that sense, both Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping fulfilled their political missions. The reform and opening-up that Deng promoted was of greater significance than any other revolution in the world. Most social reform is achieved through revolution, which tends to come at a huge social price, and many fail to transform into real social progress. Reform, on the other hand, comes at a low price but is more likely to fail due to strong resistance. Successful reforms in history are thus extremely rare both in China and abroad, let alone successful reformers.
Deng enhanced the principle of seeking truth from facts while strongly initiating the idea of emancipating the mind, leading China away from its long-term swerve to the left, thus enshrining economic construction as China’s long-term main task.
These are far from all of Deng’s exploits. After bidding goodbye to leftism, the nation faced the spread of Western values. Deng then raised the Four Cardinal Principles, to prevent China from going from one extreme to the other.
Deng’s speech during his southern tour in 1992 was another adjustment to reform and opening-up. Socialist market economic theory was comprehensively established after that. After several twists, turns and revisions, socialism with Chinese characteristics was formed with clear outlines and direction.
The greatness of Deng lies in his success. He gifted the following generations an abundant, solid political legacy. He promoted China’s modernization, changed the country’s social landscape and generally set a sustainable development path.