Deng Xiaoping

Chinese politician and paramount leader from 1978 to 1989
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Deng Xiaoping (listen (help·info)  Pronounced approximately "dehng shyau-ping" [tə̂ŋ ɕjàupʰǐŋ]; August 22, 1904February 19, 1997) was a prominent Chinese politician and reformer, and the late leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Deng never held office as the head of state or the head of government, but served as the de facto leader of the People's Republic of China from 1978 to the early 1990s. He developed "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" and Chinese economic reform, also known as the "socialist market economy", and opened China to the global market. During his paramount leadership, his official state positions were Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from 1978–1983 and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China from 1983–1990, while his official party positions were Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1977–1982 and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China from 1981–1989.

We should do more, and talk less.


  • It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.
    • Quoted in Hung Li China's Political Situation and the Power Struggle in Peking (1977), p. 107
    • According to Chambers Dictionary of Quotations (1993), p. 315, this quote is from a speech at the Communist Youth League conference in July 1962.
  • The United States brags about its political system, but the [American] President says one thing during the election, something else when he takes office, something else at midterm and something else when he leaves.
    • When asked about China's political stability by a group of American professors in 1983, as quoted in The Pacific Rim and the Western World: Strategic, Economic, and Cultural Perspectives (1987), p. 105
  • A basic contradiction between socialism and the market economy does not exist.
    • As quoted in Daily report: People's Republic of China, Editions 240-249 (1993), p. 30
    • Variant: There are no fundamental contradictions between a socialist system and a market economy.
      • Interview, Time, 4 November 1985.
  • When our thousands of Chinese students abroad return home, you will see how China will transform itself.
    • As quoted in Forbes, Vol. 176, Editions 7-13 (2005), p. 79
  • We mustn't fear to adopt the advanced management methods applied in capitalist countries (...) The very essence of socialism is the liberation and development of the productive systems (...) Socialism and market economy are not incompatible (...) We should be concerned about right-wing deviations, but most of all, we must be concerned about left-wing deviations.
    • Cited by António Caeiro in Pela China Dentro (translated), Dom Quixote, Lisboa, 2004. ISBN 972-20-2696-8
  • "If you open a window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in."

Interview with Oriana Fallaci (1980)Edit

Deng Xiaoping interviewed by Oriana Fallaci (1980)

  • But… look, Chairman Mao made mistakes, yes. Nonetheless, he was one of the principal founders of the Communist Party of China and the People’s Republic of China. Thus, when we look at his merits together with his mistakes, we think that his mistakes take second place, while his merits take first. And this means that the contribution he made to the Chinese revolution cannot be forgotten and that the Chinese people will always cherish his memory; they will always think of him as one of the founders of the party and of the republic.
  • According to Marx, socialism, which is the first stage of Communism, covers a very long period. And, during this period, we will try to fulfill the principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work.” In other words, we will blend the interests of the individual with the interests of the country. There is no other way to mobilize interest in production among the masses, let’s admit it. And since the capitalist West will be helping us to overcome the backwardness we find ourselves in — the poverty that afflicts us — it doesn’t seem opportune to get caught up in the subtleties. However things go, the positive effects will be greater than the negative effects.
  • Democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat are two parts of the same antithesis, and proletarian democracy is far superior to its capitalist counterpart. We are emphasizing the Four Principles that we must adhere to: the principle of socialism, the principle of dictatorship of the proletariat, the principle of Marxism and Leninism elaborated in Mao Zedong Thought, and the principle of leaders supported by the Communist Party of China. So, you see, that even the principle of dictatorship of the proletariat has remained untouched and untouchable.
  • War is inevitable because superpowers exists and because imperialism exists. And we are not the only ones who think this way; in every part of the world today, many people are convinced that war will break out in the 1980s. The next ten years will be very, very dangerous. They’re terrifying. We should never forget this, because this is the only way we will prevent war from breaking out immediately; this is the only way we can defer it. Not by chatting about peace and detente. Westerners have been talking about peace and detente since the end of the Second World War. So has the Soviet Union. But where is this peace, where is this detente? Year to year, if not day to day, the hot spots are growing; the factors that will lead to World War Three are increasing; and still they talk about detente and peace.
  • China is poor and our military is backwards, I agree. But we have our traditions, you know. And for quite some time, using inadequate and miserable equipment, we have cultivated the art of defeating well-armed enemies. Our territory is extremely vast, and in this vast territory the people have learned the necessary resistance for a long war — to bend the strength of others through their weaknesses. Whoever wants to invade China should remember this truth, and I believe that the Soviets remember it well.
  • Hmm… listen, I have made mistakes — yes, sometimes serious ones. But I never made them with bad intentions; I always made them with good intentions. My conscience is clear about my own life. Hmm… listen, I think I could give myself fifty percent. Yes, fifty percent would be all right.

Misattributed or apocryphalEdit

  • 致富光荣 (zhìfù guāngróng: To get rich is glorious!)
    • Deng is commonly quoted with this phrase in western media but there is no proof that he actually said it
    • However, this phrase in Chinese is more accurately translated as "wealth is glorious," where wealth can have a very general meaning, including knowledge, personal relationships, family: anything of value. Understood this way, the quote is not as directly controversial as a ideological/political statement, and so it is not hard to believe that he really did say this.[1]
  • One Country, Two systems.
    • Actually coined by Mao Zedong, popularized by Deng Xiaoping
  • Seek Truth from Facts
    • Actually from the Han Shu 《漢書·河間獻王劉德傳》, not coined by Mao Zedong nor by Deng Xiaoping, popularized by various people before them.
  • Crossing the river by feeling the stones
    • 摸着石头过河 (mō zhe shítou guòhé)
    • Meaning: proceed gradually, by experimentation.
    • Traditional saying, first used in Chinese Communist context by Chen Yun, 1980 December 16, then popularized by Deng 1984 October.[2] Frequently misattributed to Deng.[3][4]

Quotes about Deng XiaopingEdit

  • Deng Xiaoping decided in 1979 that China could teach Vietnam a lesson through a brief but decisive invasion, forcing the diversion of Vietnamese forces from Cambodia and delivering a blow to the Vietnamese-Soviet (anti-China) alliance. His low opinion of the Vietnamese ignored the fact that they had routed France and outlasted the United States. The Chinese miscalculation was not an unmitigated blunder: Deng cut his losses by keeping the conflict short, and the war exposed China's military weakness, allowing him to consolidate power and reform the People's Liberation Army. Operationally, though, the war was a military disaster for China. China suffered massive losses and failed to draw the Vietnamese out of Cambodia.
  • I knew Deng, and I had a wonderful, frank discussion with him, and he said, ‘What happened in Tiananmen Square is none of your business—it’s a domestic issue, and we do whatever we want,’ and I said, ‘You’re right. It is none of our business. But the consequences of what you did in the world and to our relations are our business. And that’s what I’m here to talk about.’
    • Brent Scowcroft, quoted in Jeffrey Goldberg, "Breaking Ranks", The New Yorker (October 23, 2005)


  1. [1]
  2. Henry He, Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People's Republic of China, Routledge, 2016, ISBN 978-1-31550044-7, p. 287
  3. Evan Osnos, Boom Doctor, New Yorker, October 11, 2010:
    The strategy, as Chen Yun put it, was "crossing the river by feeling for the stones." (Deng, inevitably, received credit for the expression.)
  4. Chinese land reform: A world to turn upside down, The Economist, 2013 October 31
    Liu Hongzhi, who oversees the scheme, quotes a famous phrase often attributed to Deng, though in fact coined by a colleague: "We are crossing the river by feeling the stones."
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