Fang Lizhi reviews Ezra F. Vogel on Deng Xiaoping

I believe I came across this old(ish) piece in the New York Review of Books on The Real Deng while learning as much as I could about The Bo Xilai scandal. Perhaps, from a link via James Fallows?….

In it, back in November 2011 Fang Lizhi reviewed Ezra F. Vogel’s book on Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. Therein, Fang Lizhi takes Vogel’s general boosterism to task. To wit…

The policies on economic growth and on “reform and opening,” which reversed the Mao-era policies of “class struggle,” were seen as progressive and were welcomed by people both inside and outside China. The rub was in Deng’s insistence on the “Four Basic Principles,” namely (1) the socialist road, (2) the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) the leadership of the Communist Party, and (4) Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Zedong-Thought. Of these, only the third really mattered; Deng’s “transformation” (Vogel’s term) had already left the others obsolete.*Basic Principle Three was the key to understanding what kind of “rich and powerful China” Deng had in mind. It also put limits on what could be meant by “reform” and “opening.”

Lizhi then goes on explaining for any apologists.

Western observers have found it incongruous that Deng was so active in pushing economic reform but so stubborn in preventing political reform—as if these were in some way contradictory policies. But there was no contradiction: one policy was aimed to bring wealth to the Party-connected elite and the other was aimed to preserve its power. To use the Party’s army to suppress student protesters who threatened Party wealth and power was entirely consistent with his basic principles.


One thought on “Fang Lizhi reviews Ezra F. Vogel on Deng Xiaoping

  1. Deng’s consistency lay in his two-sidedness. When Hua Guofeng was being attacked for the “Two Whatevers” [promising to follow whatever policies Mao Zedong had laid out and whatever instructions he gave], he joined in. A few months later, to fill the vacuum, he came up with his very own “Four Whatevers,” in the form of his reiterated support for the four basic principles [of socialism].

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