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Deng Xiaoping
Updated: 2007-07-10 09:59

Through 65 days of fighting the PLA had finally triumphed, wiping out 555,000 enemy troops. (Speaking about the campaign later, Mao Zedong once said facetiously to commanders of the campaign, "The Huai-Hai Campaign was well fought-it was like a pot of half-cooked rice, but bit by bit you managed to choke it down.") By this time the Kuomintang's crack troops on the southern front had been wiped out, the road to Nanjing was open and the collapse of the reactionary regime was imminent.

In April 1949 the General Front-line Committee, still with Deng serving as its Secretary and commanding the Second and Third Field Armies, directed the crossing of the Changjiang. Breaking through the line of defense painstakingly constructed by the Kuomintang over 500 kilometres from Jiujiang (Jiangxi Province) in the west to Jiangyin (Jiangsu Province) in the east, the mighty force, one million strong, fought its way across the Changjiang and went on to liberate Nanjing and Shanghai and the vast areas of Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces. The liberation of Nanjing signaled the collapse of the Kuomintang government. On the eve of this vast operation, Deng Xiaoping had received another appointment: he had been made First Secretary of the East China Bureau and placed in charge of taking over the east China region,the power base of the Kuomintang.

When the People's Republic of China was proclaimed on October 1, 1949, Deng attended the grand inauguration ceremony in Beijing. Soon afterwards he joined his comrades-in-arms and set out to liberate the Great Southwest of China.


The Great Southwest included Yunnan and Guizhou provinces and present-day Sichuan and Tibet, with a total area of 2.3 million square kilometres. It was the last territory held by the Kuomintang before they fled from the mainland. To liberate the Southwest, the PLA adopted the tactics of outflanking and encircling the enemy. The Second Field Army, commanded by Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping, and a corps of the First Field Army, led by He Long, advanced from the south and the north respectively and swiftly liberated the entire Southwest except for Tibet, ultimately driving the reactionary Kuomintang forces from the mainland.

Vast in area and poor in communications, the Southwest had a long border line and a large population of many nationalities, so that the liberating armies had to deal with complicated relations among many different peoples. There were hordes of stragglers and disbanded soldiers in the area, because the Kuomintang had deployed over 900,000 troops there. Furthermore, the region swarmed with local bandits and secret agents, and the feudal forces were deep-rooted. The havoc wreaked by the reactionary forces over the long years had resulted in a dilapidated society, a ruined economy and a wretched life for the people. Given the existing conditions, it was a monumental task to build a new life on this vast, complex, newly liberated land.

Deng Xiaoping served as First Secretary of the Southwest Bureau, Vice-Chairman of the Southwest Military and Administrative Commission and Political Commissar of the Southwest Military Command. While leading a campaign to wipe out fleeing bandits and Kuomintang diehards, Deng, along with Liu Bocheng, He Long and others, did everything possible to unite with everyone who could be united with and to win over everyone in the enemy camp who could be won over. With great care and discretion, they tried to break down traditional animosities among different peoples and to bring about national unity. Lastly, by mobilizing the masses, they accomplished agrarian reform and other social reforms and built democratic governments at different levels. Thus they brought about stability in the Southwest.

Under their leadership industrial and agricultural production was quickly restored. One major project they decided to undertake, despite the fact that there were many other tasks clamoring for attention, was the building of the Chengdu-Chongqing Railway. On July 1, 1952, when the railway was officially opened, a dream cherished for decades by the people of Sichuan came true at last.

At this same time Deng Xiaoping and his comrades were also working hard to prepare for the liberation of Tibet. In 1951, when Tibet was peacefully liberated, it was one of their units that planted the five-star red flag on "the roof of the world".

In less than three years since Deng Xiaoping and the others had come to work in the Southwest, fundamental changes had taken place. The entire region had begun to thrive as if spring had returned to the land.


In July 1952 the Central Committee of the Party transferred Deng Xiaoping to the central organs. This transfer marked the beginning of another important period in his revolutionary career. He served first as both executive Vice-Premier of the Government Administration Council (which was to become the State Council in 1954) and Vice-Chairman of the Financial and Economic Commission, and was soon appointed Director of the Office of Communications and Minister of Finance as well. In 1954, retaining only the position of Vice-Premier, he became in addition Secretary-General of the Party Central Committee, Director of the Organization Department and Vice-Chairman of the National Defense Commission. In 1955, at the Fifth Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee, he was elected to the Committee's Political Bureau. In 1956, at the Party's Eighth National Congress, it was Deng who made the report on the revision of the Party Constitution, and at the First Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee he was elected member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and General Secretary of the Central Committee. Thus, at the age of 52 he became one of the chief leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, together with Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Chen Yun. For the next ten years Deng Xiaoping was General Secretary, directing the routine work of the Secretariat. Referring to this time, he said later, "It was the busiest period in my life."

The decade from September 1956 to May 1966 was a period in which China began to build socialism in an all-round way. Under the leadership of the Communist Party, the whole nation worked for socialist economic and cultural development and scored great achievements. During this time the Party accumulated important experience and also made some serious mistakes. As General Secretary assisting the Chairman and Vice-Chairmen of the Party in managing the day-to-day work of the Central Committee, Deng Xiaoping participated in the policy decisions of the Party and the state. He put forward valuable proposals on many subjects- strengthening Party building, consolidating industrial enterprises, improving their management, introducing the system of workers' conferences and so on.

In his report to the Party's Eighth National Congress in1956, Deng offered a penetrating discussion on how to strengthen the Party now that it was in power, explaining that it was confronted by new tests and must constantly guard against the danger of divorcing itself from reality and from the mass line and practice democratic centralism and that Party organizations at all levels improve collective leadership, so as to prevent individuals from acting arbitrarily and making decisions on important issues alone.

In 1957, after the Party's Eighth Congress had called for concentrated efforts to develop the productive forces, gratifying results were achieved in economic work. From this point of view, it was one of the best years since the founding of the People's Republic. But in 1958, during the Great Leap Forward and movement to establish people's communes, "Left: errors began to spread. There followed three years of great hardship. In order to analyze experience and correct mistakes, Deng Xiaoping and many other leading members of the Central Committee went on inspection tours and formulated regulations for different fields of work. Deng also directed investigations in the rural areas and suggested ways to rectify such mistakes as the institution of compulsory communal canteens and the system under which the commune was supposed to distribute necessities to all. He emphasized that in correcting past mistakes it was essential to abide by the principle of seeking truth from facts. He pointed out in1962 that the relations of production to be introduced should be of the type that would be most readily accepted by the masses and most conductive to the quick restitution and development of production. He also presided over the drafting of two important documents: the Draft Regulations on the management of State Industrial Enterprises and the Draft Provisional Regulations for Work in Institutions of Higher Learning Directly Under the Ministry of Education.

In 1962 the Central Committee convened a central working conference attended by 7,000 persons, addressing this conference, Deng Xiaoping, in light of the lessons learned from the previous years, stressed the need to adhere to democratic centralism and to carry on the Party's fine traditions. He proposed that all the cases of cadres who might have been wrongly treated in past political movements should be re-examined and the cadres rehabilitated as appropriate. On behalf of the Secretariat of the Central Committee, Deng made an earnest self-criticism in this connection at the conference.

In his tenure of office as the Party's General Secretary, Deng Xiaoping had extensive contacts with leaders of other Parties in the international communist movement. On several occasions he headed delegations to Moscow to have talks with N.Khtyshchov and other Soviet leaders and always took a principled, independent stand.


The "cultural revolution", initiated and led by Mao Zedong, took China down the wrong path. Taking advantage if the situation, a group of careerists and conspirators headed by Lin Biao and another by Jiang Qing attempted to usurp the Party and state leadership, bringing unprecedented disaster upon the Party and the people. During the ten years of turmoil Deng Xiaoping was twice discredited and removed from office and went through the most painful ordeal in his revolutionary career.

No sooner had the "cultural revolution" been launched than Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping became its chief targets. In August 1966, at the Eleventh Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee, when Mao Zedong issued his famous call to "bombard the headquarters", Liu and eng were wrongly criticized and repudiated. Deng was labeled the "No.2 Capitalist Roader in China" and his family members were implicated. His eldest son Deng Pufang, then a student of physics at Beijing University, was persecuted with such violence that he received permanent injuries which left him confined to a wheelchair.

In October 1969, when Lin Biao, in and attempt to seize party and state leadership, issued his "No.1 order" to prepare against war, Deng Xiaoping was sent under escort to Xinjian County, Jiangxi Province. Having already been dismissed from all his posts, he was taken to do manual labor at the county's tractor repairing plant every morning. He worked as a fitter, as he had learned to do in France in his youth, and found himself as proficient at the job as before. Living with him were his wife Zhuo Lin, who was often ill, and his aged stepmother Xia Bogen, the three of them having only one another to depend on. It was Deng Xiaoping who, at the age of 65, took care of cleaning the room, chopping the wood and breaking up the coal. When Deng Pufang became paralyzed and needed help, after repeated requests by his parents and grandmother he was sent to live with them; then his father took on the additional responsibility of nursing him. During this period Deng Xiaoping made the best use of his spare time, often reading late into the night. He read a great number of Marxist-Leninist works and many other books both Chinese and foreign, ancient and modern. The ordeal in Xinjian lasted for three years.

In September 1971 the collapse of Lin Biao's plot for a counter-revolutionary coup and his death in an air crash eventually led to the rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping. In 1972 Mao Zedong began to consider letting Deng resume his work, and the following year, with the support of Zhou Enlai, he was restored to his post as Vice-Premier of the State Council. In 1974 he delivered a speech at the Sixth Special Session of the United nations General Assembly on behalf of the Chinese government, in which he systematically set forth Mao Zedong's thesis of the three worlds. In January 1975, when Premier Zhou Enlai became seriously ill and was hospitalized, Deng Xiaoping was reappointed Vice-Premier and appointed Vice-Chairman of the Central Committee, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission and Chief of the General Staff of the PLA, thus replacing Zhou as the person in charge of all the routine work of the Party and the state.