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China at Another Critical Reform Juncture

01-17 14:32 Caijing
China has made immense progress during its 30 years of reform and opening-up,but the nation is also confronted with a number of severe problems.

By Caijing Magazine          

The year 2012 will bring a number of important anniversaries: the 10th anniversary of China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the 20th anniversary of the dismantling of the former Soviet Union, and the 20th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's famous tour in southern China. 

Looking back, these seemingly relatively unrelated historical events are actually closely tied to the past two decades of China's reform process. Deng Xiaoping's speech during his landmark southern tour in 1992 provided new impetus for the reform and opening-up, and allowed China to calmly deal with the various shock waves brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union with development and progress. As a result, China was able to effectively avoid the return of "class struggles" and old planned economy patterns. Moreover, the achievements made in the 10 years of reform and opening-up following Deng's southern tour speeches allowed China to confidently join the WTO. By adopting a policy of opening-up to spur reform, the first decade of the new century ushered in a golden period of development. China has now established itself as the world's second largest economy, a national revival has begun, and Deng Xiaoping's goal of US$4,000 per capita GDP by the mid-21st century was achieved 40 years ahead of schedule.

China has made immense progress during its 30 years of reform and opening-up, particularly in the past two decades since Deng Xiaoping's landmark speeches on his famous southern tour. But the nation is also confronted with a number of severe problems. Standing at a new historical starting point, we need to revisit the courageous choices made at that time, face current pressing challenges head-on, and strive to deepen the process of reform. To address these issues, Caijing has presented a series of reports and interviews such as "New Global Manufacturing -- Interview with WTO Director Pascal Lamy" and "Who Abandoned the Soviet Union?"

In order to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's famous southern tour, Caijing invited Mr. Zhou Ruijin, the former deputy editor-in-chief of Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily and Beijing-based People's Daily, to review the article "Reform is the Only Path to Solving China's Woes." The article aims to embody the spirit of Deng’s southern tour speeches, review two decades of reform achievements, look at today's problems, and explore the path for future reform.

The origins of Deng's southern tour speeches can be retraced his visit to Shanghai from Jan. 28 to Feb. 18, 1991. During that period, he visited factories and listened to reports on Pudong's development progress. In a revolving restaurant in Shanghai's Jinjiang Hotel, Deng issued a series of statements on deepening reform. Zhu Rongji, then Shanghai Municipal Party Secretary, conveyed Deng’s idea to Zhou. From February to April of the same year, Zhou, who then wrote for Jiefang Daily, organized a team of journalists including Ling He and Shi Zhihong to co-write and publish a series of articles under the penname "Huangfu Ping" in support of the reform. The idea of "reform is the only path to solving China's woes" raised in the introductory piece “Taking the Lead in the Reform and Opening-up” originates from quotes of Deng's statements in Shanghai.    

After being published, the articles triggered both shock and resonance among the public and local officials. They also met with censure and criticism, and became the key historical background for Deng Xiaoping's southern tour and series of speeches one year later. From Jan. 18 to Feb. 21, 1992, Deng visited several cities including Beijing, Wuchang, Changsha, Shenzhen, Yingtan and Shanghai, before finally returning to Beijing. In just over a month, Deng visited factories, businesses, and marketplaces, and met with a number of high-level local leaders. During his visits, Deng spoke about the reform and opening-up and dispelled various misgivings.    
Deng emphasized "development as a top priority" and stressed “taking opportunity to develop the economy” as the core in several speeches on his southern tour. He also proposed "tolerance to suspicion, boldness in trial and wasting no time on argument." Then Shenzhen Special Zone Daily Deputy Editor Chen Xitian wrote a series of reports which recounted the key points of Deng's five-day tour in Shenzhen. The reports, which were first published March 26, 1992, created a nationwide sensation and became immensely popular at the time.

At a time when China faced severe challenges, the “Huangfu Ping” articles and Chen’s reports mobilized public opinion to firmly push forward reform and provided a basis for the strategic policy made at the 14th National Congress of the CPC to establish a socialist market economy, adhere to deepening reform, and expand the opening-up.

Deng's speeches during his southern tour two decades ago allowed people to move beyond the constraints of "anti-peaceful evolution" and the concept of "priority to a planned economy." They broke down ideological barriers between socialism and capitalism and proposed "learning from the best achievements of humankind," thereby ushering in an ideological emancipation and reform and development boom.

Twenty years later, China has reached another critical moment in its history. It now faces a completely new set of new internal and external challenges. Thus, to clearly position China in the changing international situation and preserve and expand reform achievements, we need to move beyond the shackles of specious thinking, have the courage to break down various interest groups, remove covert and overt barriers, and strive for new breakthroughs in reform and opening up.

In his most recent article for Caijing, Zhou Ruijin points out that the tasks to be accomplished during this critical pivot point of reform for China are complex, onerous, and will be met with much resistance. As a result, there is an even greater need for unified understanding and a return to the spirit of Deng Xiaoping's speeches two decades ago, said Zhou. The public is eagerly awaiting deepening reforms by the central government and the effective promotion of "four-in-one" reform of China's economic, political, social, and cultural systems. Political reform should be the center, according to Zhou. China is currently emphasizing social system reform, which involves sharp conflicts among different interests, he added.

At the dawn of yet another important turning point for China, to resolve the current plight of socio-economic transformation and deal with various problems arising from development, we should remember the profound significance of Deng Xiaoping’s words 20 years ago: "Reform is the only path to solving China's woes."

Full article in Chinese: http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2012-01-15/111618694.html

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