Twenty years after late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping conducted his famous southern tour, his words still resonate, providing new impetus for China’s reform and opening-up.
From Jan. 18 to Feb. 21, 1992, Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China’s reform and opening-up, made a landmark tour in south China, delivering a series of speeches to define and clarify socialism in response to doubts about the development of China’s special economic zones.
In his speeches, Deng defined socialism as “the pursuit of common prosperity” and arbitrated a debate among officials and scholars about the proper way to implement a market economy in China.
“The practice of using a planned economy is not equivalent to socialism because there is also planning under capitalism; but the practice of using a market economy is not equivalent to capitalism because there are also markets under socialism,” said Deng in one of his most frequently repeated quotes.
“Deng’s talks during the southern tour created another high-level design for socialism with Chinese characteristics, and were a reiteration for the policy of reform and opening-up,” said Wang Zhan, deputy secretary-general of the municipal Communist Party of China (CPC) committee of Shanghai.
Inspired by Deng’s words, Chinese people began to break the shackles of tradition. The importance of economic development, reform and opening-up began to take deeper root in China’s soil.
Li Shangli, a professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said the changes that were inspired by Deng’s speeches have largely determined China’s development over the last two decades.
The CPC explicitly stated that it would create a socialist market economy during its 14th National Congress in October 1992.
China’s economy has grown rapidly as a result of foreign trade. In 1996, China’s total foreign trade volume accounted for 35.5 percent of its GDP. Now, it accounts for nearly 70 percent of the GDP.
Twenty-three years after the launch of the opening-up policy and 52 years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the country entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 to become its 143rd member.
In Hubei province, the first stop on Deng’s historic tour, the number of private enterprises has grown from 2,172 in 1992 to more than 30,000 in 2011.
The city of Shenzhen, another stop on Deng’s tour, has evolved from a small township into a major economic powerhouse in the south over the past 20 years.
He Xinyuan, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that despite the progress of the last 20 years, there are still several problems that cannot be ignored, such as the development of social ethics, education and the country’s growing wealth gap.
Guo Rucai, a professor from the Party Literature Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, said the problems that are hindering China’s development should be solved by deepening reform and opening-up policies
“Reform and opening-up is becoming more difficult,” said Chi Fulin, head of the China (Hainan) Institute for Reform and Development.
Today’s reforms are more related to the readjustment of vital interests, which may cause a great deal of resistance, Chi said, adding that the scope of China’s reform efforts has been enlarged, extending from economics to politics, culture and society.
Nie Gaomin, a research official from the National Development and Reform Commission, said that although China has established a framework for its market economy, it must make greater efforts to finish its construction.