The Background of Deng Xiaoping Southern Tour in 1992

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The 1992 southern tour of Deng Xiaoping was a very significant event in Chinese politics. The tour was quite diverse, and its background is of paramount importance for better understanding of China and its own development at the end of the twentieth century. This essay is devoted to the analysis of the main purposes of the tour that were to generate sufficient support for economic reforms, soften the repercussions of the Tiananmen Square protests, and ensure support for further continuation of Deng’s policy both in terms of social and economic spheres. The paper will also focus on the approaches to planning the tour that also played an important role in the background of this event.

The background of Deng Xiaoping’s southern tour is characterized by several crucial factors. At first, it should be mentioned that the role of personality in Chinese politics is very significant. Thus, a tour of such a leader as Deng Xiaoping could have real impact on the development of Chinese political sphere. In all probability, it would take combined efforts of the whole party in other countries. In China, since the ruling of Mao Zedong, however, the leaders tended to have more authority and influence on public opinion than even the decision of the Congress. Zhao argues that “political power in Beijing is intensely personalistic” (Zhao 739). He also adds that “policy is thus largely determined with respect to personal consequences of the policy decision on the individual policy maker or faction” (Zhao 739). Therefore, Deng Xiaoping’s decision to have a tour visiting Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai was made taking into account the fact that “the paramount leader” of Chinese politics (as Deng Xiaoping was often called in Chinese mass media) could really change the direction of the state development (Vogel 361). At the time when the tour was planned, the official Beijing mostly supported Deng’s rival, and some of the important newspapers were also controlled by this political group. However, Deng Xiaoping was sure that he could alter the situation by drawing public support to his programs and schemes. He planned to make many speeches and meet different local leaders in Guangzhou and other regions that would help him to consolidate the supporters of his political lobby.

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The southern tour was the most significant political event in China that happened several years after the Tiananmen Square protests. The common populace in China believed that the orders were given primarily by Deng, but European and American political analysts do not unanimously support this theory. Some argue that it was the collective decision of several top party members (Marti 120). It should be also remembered that the tour took place several weeks after the fall of the Soviet Union, and this event was reflected in many activities of the Chinese communist party. It was necessary to stabilize the country that was significantly shaken after both the Tiananmen Square protests and the fall of another powerful communist state. Although the southern tour was planned before the actual fall of the Soviet Union, the general tendency was clear long time before the “official” termination of the country. Thus, Deng attempted to use the tour in order to contrast Chinese success to the drawbacks in Soviet politics. The tour was planned to be centered on the advantages of Chinese social and economic policies that managed to lead the enterprise sector to the unprecedented level for China of the twentieth century. The long trip should be comprised of the measures that would effectively and impressively show the “superiority of socialism” as Deng Xiaoping put it in many of his speeches (Marti 119).

Deng Xiaoping was an avid proponent of the economic reforms in China, “the principal decision-maker of the establishment of special economic zones”. Furthermore, his trip to several provincial districts of the country was also aimed at facilitating further commercial and manufacturing development of these regions (Records of Deng Xiaoping). Deng was aware that it was not possible to ensure stable economic changes via directions from Beijing. Moreover, he had just officially resigned from the office, and, “sensing his influence slipping, Deng embarked on his tour to show public support for the SEZ, implicitly signaling that the reform era was here to stay” (Schiavenza). He wanted to give support to a large wave of personal entrepreneurship that occurred in various free economic zones engineered by the ruling political elite of the country and Deng Xiaoping personally. As Marti writes, one of the purposes of this tour was to “transform the non-state sector of economy” (118). Therefore, on the stage of preparation and organization of this tour, Deng Xiaoping included many production venues into the schedule. He wanted to visit important manufacturing and business centers to “clarify the muddled idea about whether the establishment of special economic zones is of “capitalism” or socialism” in nature” (Records of Deng Xiaoping). The approach to this theory was different in China and America or Europe as the latter tended to see more political and personal background in Deng’s trip. The tour was also planned as a way of showing close connections between the ruling elite and businessmen. Deng often argued that it was necessary “to do more practical and useful things” (Records of Deng Xiaoping). Marti also adds that Deng wanted to minimize the gap between personal entrepreneurs and the state sector and urge “all state enterprises to similarly experiment in order to raise the efficiency and profitability” (118).

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The southern tour was planned both as a reaction to previous events in China (e.g. the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989) and as a step into the future that would facilitate the further strengthening of the party course. Vogel argues that one of the purposes of Deng Xiaoping’s tour was “to give heart to the reformers and embolden his successor, Jiang Zemin” (704). Mr Jiang, a new leader of the Chinese communist party, was also from Shanghai, a city being visited by Deng during the tour.