Deng Xiaoping
Original publication:

Bourgeois Liberalization Means Taking the Capitalist Road (1985)

Excerpts from a talk with Prof. Chen Ku-ying, formerly of Taiwan University, on May 20, 1985; and a talk with the committee chairmen of a Symposium on the Question of the Mainland and Taiwan on June 6, 1985.

The mainland will maintain the socialist system and not turn off onto the wrong road, the road to capitalism. One of the features distinguishing socialism from capitalism is that socialism means common prosperity, not polarization of income. The wealth created belongs first to the state and second to the people; it is therefore impossible for a new bourgeoisie to emerge. The amount that goes to the state will be spent for the benefit of the people, a small portion being used to strengthen national defence and the rest to develop the economy, education and science and to raise the people’s living standards and cultural level.

Since the downfall of the Gang of Four an ideological trend has appeared that we call bourgeois liberalization. Its exponents worship the “democracy” and “freedom” of the Western capitalist countries and reject socialism. This cannot be allowed. China must modernize; it must absolutely not liberalize or take the capitalist road, as countries of the West have done. Those exponents of bourgeois liberalization who have violated state law must be dealt with severely. Because what they are doing is, precisely, “speaking out freely, airing their views fully, putting up big-character posters” and producing illegal publications — all of which only creates unrest and brings back the practices of the “cultural revolution.”

We must keep this evil trend in check. In 1980 the National People’s Congress adopted a special resolution to delete from Article 45 of the Constitution the provision that citizens “have the right to speak out freely, air their views fully, hold great debates and write big-character posters” — a provision that had been added during the “cultural revolution.” People who worship Western “democracy” are always insisting on those rights. But having gone through the ordeals of the ten-year “cultural revolution,” China cannot restore them. Without ideals and a strong sense of discipline it would be impossible for China to adhere to the socialist system, to develop the socialist economy and to realize the modernization programme.

At the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee the Party decided on the policy of opening to the outside world and at the same time demanded a curb on bourgeois liberalization. These two things are related. Unless we curb bourgeois liberalization, we cannot put our open policy into effect. Our modernization drive and the open policy must exclude bourgeois liberalization. For the past few years there has been liberal thinking not only in the society at large but also inside the Party. If this trend were allowed to spread, it would undermine our cause.

In short, our goal is to create a stable political environment; in an environment of political unrest, it would be impossible for us to proceed with socialist construction or to accomplish anything. Our major task is to build up the country, and less important things should be subordinated to it. Even if there is a good reason for having them, the major task must take precedence.

A few persons who have advocated bourgeois liberalization and violated state law have been dealt with according to law. In China, bourgeois liberalization means taking the capitalist road and leads to disunity. I’m not talking about the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland now but about unity on the mainland. Bourgeois liberalization would plunge our society into turmoil and make it impossible for us to proceed with the work of construction. To check bourgeois liberalization is therefore a matter of principle and one of vital importance for us.

Your view of the way we dealt with these few persons is different from ours, because you think of this question in terms of human rights. I should like to ask: what are human rights? Above all, how many people are they meant for? Do those rights belong to the minority, to the majority or to all the people in a country? Our concept of human rights is, in essence, different from that of the Western world, because we see the question from a different point of view.