You are on page 1of 3

Assess the view that Deng market reforms have been more bold than cautious.

When China first opened up in 1978, it was considered an earth-shaking


development and perhaps even audacious at it is something that had never been
seen before. While Dengs reforms were unprecedented in Chinas history and by
introducing market reforms in a socialist country might well jeopardize the party
legitimacy and instantly set the country into chaos, Deng conducted exhaustive
case studies of similar developmental path by other economies and took on a
gradual approach towards reform. Hence, this essay seeks to argue that Dengs
market reforms have overall not been more bold than cautious because despite
the ambitious goal of liberating the economy, every step towards reform was
carried out in care and subtlety.
Dengs reforms are daring as they challenged directly the fundamental
ideological premised of the CCP. CCP, by the very name of the party, stands for
communism and along with it necessarily social equality. However, when Deng
carried out his reform and opening policy, the party betrayed and contradicted
the ideal that gave it the legitimacy to rule. When the Special Economic Zones
(SEZs) were first allowed to be set up in 1980, some provinces started to develop
faster than the rest. In 1986, when Deng promoted the open door policy to
encourage foreign investment, the sovereignty of the command economy was
compromised. With the household responsibility system, instead of the state
being the entity that controlled every aspect over production, farmers were given
rights over production and were allowed to keep profits made from the surplus of
harvest. Beyond that, for other State-owned industries (SOEs), profits were
permitted to be retrained and performance-related bonuses were introduced to
encourage state employees to work harder, a diametrical opposite to what the
party professed to believe in which is standardized pay. As such, Dengs reforms
are daring as they challenged directly the fundamental ideological premise of
CCP.
Nevertheless, implementation of the reforms is cautious as Deng ensured that
the reforms would occur after the partys ideological modification. The first stage
of Dengs market reforms before all is to modify CCPs ideology to justify it
reforms. Mantras like Seek truth from facts, Socialism is not about being poor
and Any cat that can catch a mouse is a good cat were propagated through the
society to shift the mindset of the people. China is an ideological state. Without
the emancipation of the mind, Deng would have faced insurmountable
resistance in carrying out his market reforms. As such, Deng is more careful than
bold because he did not allow the ambition to overwhelm and lead him to
jumpstart economic changes without considering the challenges to it where he
would then calibrate the necessary moves. Hence, implementation of the
reforms is cautious as Deng ensured that the reforms would occur after the
partys ideological modification
The reforms are bold as they could threaten the unity of the CCP, hence its
continued governance of the country. In the immediate aftermath of Maos
impact on China, Deng came in to power in a time where there were still a lot of
hard liners in the Chinese Politburo and any attempt to reform would inevitably
have a divisive effect on the party. Resistance was so strong that there was
always a belief that Dengs reform could reverse at any moment. Dengs
repeated emphasis on Chinas economic reforms as Socialism with Chinese
Characteristics is a testimony of this. Dengs reforms which looked at ensuring
CCPs legitimacy through the delivery of economic goods also were also

undermining the relevancy of communism which the hardliners held dear. As


such, reforms were bold as they actually threatened the unity of the CCP and
hence its continued governance by pitting the reformists against the hardliners.
The strategies adopted by Deng in his reforms are also untried and does not fall
within the conventions of any economic framework. Socialism with Chinese
characteristics is in actuality an amalgamation of the capitalist and the
command economy that was previously unheard of. As opposed to the Big
Bang approach by Eastern Europe where major political and economic reforms
were carried out together, CCPs approach was gradual, pragmatic, incremental
and
experimental.
Economic
reforms
took
place
without
political
democratization. Liberalization was introduced incrementally and privatization
was delayed until mid 1980s. As such, strategies adopted by Deng in his reforms
are considered bold as they were venturing on high stakes.
Nevertheless, Deng has also implemented the marketization of Chinese economy
in a systematic way. Economic reforms were carried out under the framework of
Four Modernization where agriculture, industry, science and technology, and
national defense were given priority for development in the order as named. In
1978, to improve agricultural and productivity and rural economy, the Household
Responsibility System and Town Village enterprises were first introduced. Then in
1980, the economy was open up to foreign trade and investment with the
establishment of special economic zones. After which, contractual fiscal forms, or
rather, what Deng called eating from separate kitchens was formed. All of
these are such that the foundation upon which economic reforms would be built
on could be a solid ground and the needs of the country are first dealt with.
Hence, Dengs reforms are not more bold than cautious as every step which boils
down even to the most minute detail, were dealt with.
Moreover, the liberalization and opening up of China to the rest of the world is
carefully planned and gradual. Deng described his policies as crossing the river
by groping the stones. Gradualism and a trial and error approach were all
modes of operation that had contributed to Chinas growth and success. The first
SEZ was established in Shenzhen in 1980 before 11 more SEZ were set up along
Chinas southern coastline. Wary of a rival power bases in economically powerful
Shanghai, Deng chose the extreme south to launch his reforms and economic
experiments. Policies such as marketization and monetarisation of the Chinese
economy proceeded gradually with caution. This included also the progressive
corporatization and in some instances privatization of the SOEs. Deng was
mindful of not throwing the country into a complete shock with his bold reforms.
He made sure that certain degree of adaptation by the people and the system
has been achieved before proceeding to the next state of opening up. Hence,
economic reforms were not bolder than more cautious because even to open up
each step is carefully calibrated.
Deng is also cautious as he shrewd enough to recognize that socio-political
stability is key to the success of Chinas transformation. Deng is fond of
detaching themself from theoretical arguments which he perceived as
meaningnless and divisive, preferring to let the positive outcomes speak for
themselves. His approach: Dont argue; try it. If it works, let it spread worked
well in promoting peace and stability in the politburo as through it, officials were
able to come to a common consensus. Providers of goods and services whether
rural or urban were pleased with the higher income derived from economic
liberalization. Soon few were complaining that Dengs policies were not socialist

and public resentment was pacified, thereby achieving stability. His principle that
stability overrides all was what guided the process of economic reforms.
Hence, Dengs reforms are more cautious than bold as he did not allow stability
to be compromise even as he pushed forth his reforms.
In conclusion, while Dengs reforms to transform China into a market economy
have been bold, for it meant contradicting the partys communist ideals and
venturing into a future of uncertainty for China, the policies implemented effect
the change have been systematic and cautious implemented to effect the
change have been systemic and cautious. Risks taken by Deng to open up the
country are calculated and the CCP is careful to ensure that socio-political
stability, which is fundamental to Chinas development, are not compromised by
the reforms. Hence, Dengs reforms were overall not more bold than cautious as
carefulness is the underlying trait through the whole course of reforms even up
till today.