Scholars explore Deng's impact

Han Qiang

The author is a professor with the Center for Chinese Studies Abroad of Beijing Union University.

Those believers of denial and deviation tend to see Deng Xiaoping Theory as one featuring nationalism, neo-mercantilism, and pragmatism, which is the opposite of Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought. Whereas other scholars argue Deng’s theory is essentially true to the original principles of Marxism, or representing an emerging Chinese version of traditional Marxism, as opposed to blatant distortions such as left-leaning dogmatism. In particular, they argue Deng’s correction of Mao Zedong’s missteps in his later life was not repudiation of Mao, as many of Deng’s thoughts actually originated from the Mao. Thus both Mao and Deng should be evaluated as steadfast Marxists who went to considerable lengths to push for China’s modernization.

Objectively speaking, foreign scholars of Deng Xiaoping are unlikely to surpass their counterparts in China, especially given the fact that Deng research is less noticeable overseas nowadays. However, most of the foreign works on Deng are still of considerable significance to understanding the man himself. Generally, foreign studies of Deng mainly feature open and equal discussions. For instance, individual studies based on Deng’s life, personal character, theoretical thinking, policies, and international impact, have resulted in a number of different opinions.

During their research into Deng and his theories, the overseas scholars usually attach great importance to the global situation, China’s modern history and traditional culture, and Deng’s personal life experiences. Comparative study was widely adopted by many scholars as well. In particular, relations between Deng and other communist leaders such as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong, and comparisons between the contemporary reforms of the former Soviet Union and China in the 1980s have been then frequently analyzed.

For the Chinese scholars of Deng Xiaoping, it is vital they selectively absorb their foreign counterparts’ research methods, which have so far led to few insightful academic achievements yet a myriad of one-sided conclusions, due to the difference of ideology, standpoint and way of thinking.

The author is a professor with the Center for Chinese Studies Abroad of Beijing Union University.

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