[OUTLOOK]Celebrating Deng XiaopingIt is rare for a politician to be blessed with celebrations of the centenary of his birth as Deng Xiaoping was. The late Chinese leader enjoyed the honor because he left behind distinguished achievements and he was lucky enough to have generous descendants. No matter how noble his cause was, if his efforts had not yielded such success, Deng would have been remembered as a master of disguise and a mastermind of the Tiananmen massacre. If the new generation was more concerned with his faults and not his contributions, his legacy wouldn’t have been celebrated so lavishly. According to official statements from Beijing, 319 persons were killed in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Mr. Deng inherited a struggling country after the death of Mao Zedong. Chairman Mao’s decades-long Cultural Revolution left communist China devastated and starving. Internationally, the nation was isolated. Mr. Deng was given the task of reorganizing a country torn apart and solving urgent problems of the people’s livelihood. Also, he had to appease the grudges of the people persecuted under Mao’s regime. It was relatively simple to punish the tyrannical Gang of Four and their followers and to recover the lost honor of falsely charged people, but the problem was the reassessment of history.
In sorting out the remnants of the nightmarish Cultural Revolution, China’s founding father Mao stood at the center. Deng and many other politicians suffered under Mao’s regime, but they could not denounce Mao or deny history altogether. Chairman Mao had firmly established his presence in the hearts of the Chinese people. So Deng took three years of preparation for the reassessment of modern history. He came up with three basic principles. First, Chairman Mao’s faults should be named but his achievements should also be acknowledged. Second, it should be made clear that Mao’s ideology was inherited. Thirdly, the reassessment of history should focus on the promotion of modernization and integration of the people.
In June 1981, the Communist Party of China officially settled the dispute over history by adopting the 35,000-word “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.” The party concluded that Chairman Mao made a critical mistake in promoting the Cultural Revolution, but that he had contributed to the communist revolution in China throughout his life. The contribution comes before his blunders. Mr. Deng also distinguished the faults of later days from the ideology that Mao created through his lifetime. If not, the party could have made a mockery of itself by following the ideology of a man who ruined the nation. By saving Mao’s dignity, the party could neatly bring its people together.
After settling the historical controversy, Mr. Deng concentrated on building the economy. He proposed a goal to quadruple the per-capita national income to $1,000 by 2000. In his drive for economic development, Mr. Deng displayed strong and skillful leadership. We can imagine how hard it would have been to introduce the concepts of a market economy to China of that time. Mr. Deng skillfully maintained a balance between the conservatives, who wanted to hold fast to socialism, and the progressives who wanted drastic reform. He made an effort to bring conservatives and progressives together for the modernization of China.
Mr. Deng whipped the establishment to change its thinking and put the brakes on the rush of the reformists. He said, “Reform is the only way to survive, but political stability and social order are essential for success.” He demoted cronies like Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang and sometimes used tanks to suppress demonstrations. As a political conservative and an economic reformist, the two-faced leader took his steps towards the modernization of China. Deng had the patience and tolerance to take small steps toward a grand plan.
By personally taking charge of the economy, Mr. Deng gradually cleared obstacles. When his reform policies met with criticism, he paid visits to the United States and Japan to resolve bigger diplomatic issues while taking special care of the problems. Mr. Deng created and advertised an investor-friendly environment in China. One of his most significant achievements was planning early for his succession. The post-Deng leadership structure is running smoothly today. The proposed national goals have been accomplished, and China’s economy has gained a boost. Mr. Deng deserves an extravagant birthday bash for his centenary.
Just like China, Korea has achieved political development and economic prosperity in the last three decades. The international community recognizes Korea’s rapid growth, and China had studied Korea’s successes. But we do not have a centenary to celebrate.
* The writer is the vice chairman of the Samsung Economic Research Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Choi Woo-suk