The Present Circumstances and Tasks (Excerpts)

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This was the first major speech that Deng Xiaoping gave after becoming paramount leader of China late in 1979. It outlined his policy objective for the next decade, and clarified his vision on a number of major issues related to economic and political reform. Here, the excerpts related to criticism, art and public communication are collected.

16 January 1980


Communist Party members, Party Cadres and especially high-level cadres, must have a firm position and clearly show their colours in this struggle against all sorts of criminals. It is absolutely not permitted to propagate whatever freedom of expression or publication, and freedom of association and to form organizations that includes anti-revolutionaries; it is absolutely not permitted that any person gets into contact with these people with their back towards the party. What is said here, refers to that sort of relationship with an attitude of embracing and sympathizing with them, as for relationships that only occur for some comrades’ work, naturally does not fall under this. That sort of relationship with an attitude of embracing and sympathizing with them, certainly exists. For example, there are some secret magazines that are printed so prettily, where does the paper come from? Which print shop printed it? These people certainly do not have printing shops. Are their not Communist Party members within the print ships printing these things? Among those supporting the activities of these people, there are some that are Communist Party members, and there are even not a few cadres. It must be made clear with these Party members that their position is extremely mistaken and extremely dangerous, if they do not immediately and thoroughly rectify, they must be given Party discipline punishment. Generally speaking, on the problem of struggling with anti-revolutionaries, saboteurs and all sorts of criminals, the attitude of all levels’ Party organizations, up to every branch, must be extremely firm, there cannot be any vacillation, or vague and woolly expressions.




In order to realize stability and consolidation, comrades in propaganda, education, theoretical and literature and art departments, must jointly make efforts from all aspects. There is no doubt that work in these aspects has been done well, and that it may have an extremely large function in guaranteeing, safeguarding and developing a stable and unified political picture. But if there have been large deviations, they may also foment the development of factors leading to social instability. We hope that newspapers and periodicals conduct even more ideological and theoretical explanation of the necessity of stability and unity, that is to say, they must forcefully propagate the superiority of Socialism, propagate the huge achievements and limitless prospects of a Socialist China, and propagate that fighting for the future of a Socialist China is the most sublime fate and honour at this time. In short, we must make our Party’s newspapers and periodicals become ideological centres for the entire country’s stability and unity. Newspapers, radio and television must all make stimulating stability and unity, and raising the Socialist awareness of youth into a constant and basic task for themselves. Newspapers, radio and television have made great achievements in the last three years, and generally speaking are good, but there also some insufficient points. Comrades working in these departments must also regularly and attentively listen to different opinions coming from all sides, analyse and improve their own work. The literature and art world has just held a literary representative meeting, we say that we must not flagrantly interfere with what to write and how to write it, this would be making the duties of literature and art workers and the requirements concerning their own work heavier. We persist in the policy of the “Two Hundreds” and the “Three Noes”, and do not continuously raise slogans like culture is subordinate to politics, because this slogan easily becomes a theoretical basis to flagrantly interfere with literature and art, and a long period of practice has proven that it harms more than it benefits literature and art development. But, this is naturally not to say that literature and art may deviate from politics. Literature and art cannot be separated from politics. No progressive and revolutionary literature and art worker cannot consider the social influence of their works, and cannot consider the interest of the people, the interest of the country, and the interest of the Party. Fostering new Socialist people is politics. New Socialist people naturally must strive to go and realize the interest of the people, defend the honour of the Socialist motherland, and heroically devote themselves to the future of the Socialist motherland. Literature and art work has a very large influence on the ideological tendencies of the people and especially youth, and has a very large influence on social stability and unity. We must kindly hope that all comrades in the literature and art world, as well as comrades engaging in education, news, theoretical work and other ideological work, all regularly and consciously emphasise the larger picture, and untiringly fight to raise the Socialist awareness of the people and the youth.


Requiring stability and unity, can this not obstruct letting a hundred flowers bloom? It cannot. We must forever persist in the principle of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools contend. But this is not to say that it is permitted for a hundred flowers blooming and a hundred schools contending to not benefit the larger picture of stability and unity. If we say that letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools content is permitted to ignore stability and unity, then this principle is misunderstood and abused. What we implement is Socialist democracy, it is not capitalist democracy. Therefore, our persisting in stability and unity, and persisting in the Four Cardinal Principles is completely consistent with persisting in the principle of the “Two Hundred”. There are people that say that the 3rd Plenum was releasing, and the Four Cardinal Principles are taking back. This is a complete distortion. Communist Party members absolutely are not able to condone this sort of distortion, and must persist in opposing this sort of distortion. The Four Cardinal Principles require first and foremost to persist in Socialism, how are we able to not persist in Socialism? If we do not persist in Socialism, which stability and unity will there be, and which Socialist Four Modernizations will there be? That the 3rd Plenum requires stability and unity, is to require the conduct of Socialist modernization construction on a stable and united basis. This is the greatest interest of the people in the entire country. The “Two Hundreds” policy naturally must serve this greatest interest, and cannot oppose this greatest interest.


Our persisting in the development of democracy and the legal system, is a resolute principle of our Party. But realizing democracy and the legal system, is the same as realizing the Four Modernizations, the method of a “great leap forward cannot be used”, and the method of “freely airing views” cannot be used. That is to say, we absolutely must be measured, and have leadership. Otherwise, it can only foment turmoil, it can only obstruct the Four Modernizations, and it can also only obstruct democracy and the legal system. The “Four Large Freedoms”, meaning speaking out freely, airing views fully, large character posters and large mass debates, are contained in the Constitution. Now, summarizing historical experience, it cannot but be acknowledged that this method of the “Four Large Freedoms”, when considered in their entirety, have never engendered a positive function. We should let the masses have full rights and opportunities to let them express their criticism over the leadership’s responsibilities and their constructive suggestions, but these methods of “airing views freely” clearly is not adapted to achieve this objective. because of this, the Party Centre is preparing to submit a request to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the National People’s Congress to consider to cancel the article in the Constitution concerning the “Four large Freedoms”, on the basis of long-term practice, and on the basis of the opinion of the absolute majority of cadres and the masses.




In order to persist in and improve the Party’s leadership, we must strengthen Party discipline. In the period of the Cultural Revolution, Party discipline became lax, and by today, has still not completely recovered, this is also a major reason for why the Party cannot give rein to its due function. Because discipline was correspondingly lax, many Party members were allowed to go their own way, and were permitted to not implement or not completely implement their duties to the Party line, principles and policies, the Party’s decisions and the Party’s regulations. If a party permits that its party members express discourse freely, and operate freely and completely according to their individual decisions, this Party naturally will not be able to have unified ideals, and will not be able to have fighting strength, and it will be impossible to implement Party duties smoothly. Therefore, we must persist in and improve Party leadership, must strictly safeguard Party discipline, and hugely strengthen discipline. Individuals must submit to the organization, the minority must submit to the majority, lower levels must submit to higher levels, and the entire Party must submit to the Centre. We must strictly implement these matters. Otherwise, we will not be able to become a fighting collective, and will also not be capable to be the vanguard.


Here, I want to say that in these matters, the most important is that the entire Party must submit to the Centre. When the Centre made mistakes, these were rectified by the Centre itself long ago, and no person is permitted to use this as an excuse to resist the leadership of the Centre. Only when the entire Party strictly submits to the Centre, will the Party be able to lead the entire body of Party members and the people of the entire country in realizing the great task and fight of realizing modernization. Any person, if they gravely destroy this matter, must be subject to strict disciplinary punishment by all levels’ Party organizations and all levels’ discipline inspection committees, because this is where the highest interest of the Party is found, and is also where the highest interest of the people of the entire country is found. We must persist in carrying forward Party democracy and guarantee Party democracy. Where Party members have opinions concerning Party decisions, they may express them through the organizations, they may maintain their own opinions, and they may also directly raise their own opinions with the Centre through the organization. Starting from the Centre, all levels’ Party organizations must earnestly consider these opinions. But, things decided by the Centre, or things decided by Party organizations, as long as they have not been changed, must be submitted to, and opinions must be expressed according to the party decision, it is not permitted to disseminate opinions of no trusting, not being satisfied with or opposing the Party Centre’s line, principles and policies. Party newspapers and Party periodicals must certainly unconditionally propagate the Party’s stance. Party members naturally have the right to criticize shortcomings and mistakes in Party work, but this sort of criticism should be constructive criticism and should raise positive improvement opinions. Is this not to say that some question here or there may be discussed? They may be discussed, but, within which scope they are discussed and in which way they are discussed, must conform to Party principles, and obey Party decisions. Otherwise, if everyone does what they please, and does not implement the Central principles, policies and decisions in their actions, the Party will become lax, there will be no unity, and it will be impossible to have fighting power. Because of this, we must firmly eliminate anarchist ideological trends that have been brought into the Party by the “Gang of Four” as well as bourgeois liberalist ideological trends of every shade and description that newly emerge within the Party. Only if we determinedly guarantee the unity and fighting strength of the Party, will it be possible to complete all our tasks that we put forward today.



















One thought on “The Present Circumstances and Tasks (Excerpts)

    “In order to re… | Ethos Enquiry said:
    August 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    […] “The Present Circumstances and Tasks” made on the 16 January 1980. In the words of the China Copyright and Media blog, “It outlined his policy objective for the next decade, and clarified his vision on a […]

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