[FOUNTAIN]Slow, steady wins the race of reform

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[FOUNTAIN]Slow, steady wins the race of reform

The former Chinese leader Mao Zedong wanted to hasten the transformation of China into an industrial socialist state. Mao set a goal to catch up with England in steel and energy in seven years and the United States in 15. The Great Leap Forward, an economic development campaign that began in 1958, cost the lives of over 20 million persons through famine, but he urged his countrymen to speed up their efforts. Chairman Mao wanted China’s history to unfold in hours and days, not decades and centuries. The impatient leader pushed for the Cultural Revolution to reorganize society. But the result was impoverishment.
Deng Xiaoping had a different style. Deng said it would take at least a century to develop modern socialism. He said China was only in the early phase of socialist construction. Zhao Ziyang, a former premier, called Deng’s ideas courageous. Deng was twice ousted while pursuing the pragmatic slogan, “Black cat or white cat, it’s a good cat that catches the mice,” and criticizing the radical ideologies of the Cultural Revolution. When he made a comeback in 1978 and seized power in the Communist Party, Deng did not hasten to implement his ideas. Instead, he set realistic goals in pursuing reforms and market opening and projected that per-capita gross national product, a mere $250 in 1979, would grow to $800 by the end of the 20th century. Indeed, China’s per-capita gross national product reached 760 dollars in 1998, and China began a race toward its dream of becoming a world economic power.
In “Competing with Time,” Min Tu-ki, a professor here, wrote that Deng and his theory of the primary stage of socialism was the first in China’s modern history to have a relaxed attitude and long-term perspective. Sun Wen, Mao and other Chinese leaders of the 20th century were all restless, and their unbalanced impatience resulted in failure and catastrophe, Mr. Min claimed.
Korean society is also suffering from the disease of impatience. The Roh administration wants to change society, reveal historical faults and move the capital. However, history has taught us that compulsive social reconstruction inspired by impatience will not only fail but also bring disaster.
Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Deng’s birth. In setting the national agenda, we would do well to recall Deng’s prudence and deliberate pace.

by Lee Se-jung

The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
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