Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping Theory (Chinese: 邓小平理论; pinyin: Dèng Xiǎopíng Lǐlùn), also known as Dengism,[1][2] is the series of political and economic ideologies first developed by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. The theory does not reject Marxism–Leninism or Mao Zedong Thought, but instead claims to be an adaptation of them to the existing socioeconomic conditions of China.[3][4]

The theory also played an important role China's modern economy, as Deng stressed opening China to the outside world,[5] the implementation of one country, two systems, and through the phrase "seek truth from facts", an advocation of political and economic pragmatism.[6]


Further information: Ideology of the Chinese Communist Party

Deng's theory encouraged the construction of socialism within China by having it develop "Chinese characteristics,"[7] which was guided by China’s economic reform policy with the goal of self-improvement and the development of a socialism system. His theory did not suggest improvement or development of China's closed economic system, but rather overthrow the existing economic system for a more open one.[8]

China largely owes its economic growth to Deng Xiaoping's emphasis on economic production, under the theory of the productive forces – a subset of 20th century Marxist theory. In the view of Deng, the task faced by the leadership of China was twofold: (i) promoting modernization of the Chinese economy, and (ii) preserving the ideological unity of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its control of the difficult reforms required by modernization.[9]

Deng argued that in order for China to achieve socialism, it would have to borrow aspects of capitalism into its economy. However, he also suggested that its usage would have to be state-controlled. These borrowed principles, in Deng's mind, allowed a more liberal interpretation of China’s modernization into a socialist state. This includes marketing characteristics such as planning, production, and distribution that could be interpreted as socialism.[10] Modernization efforts were generalized by the concept of the Four Modernizations. The Four Modernizations were goals, set forth by Zhou Enlai in 1963, to improve agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology in China.

To preserve ideological unity, Deng Xiaoping Theory formulated "Four Cardinal Principles" which the Communist Party must uphold:

In 1992, fourteen years after Deng had become China's leader, he embarked on a tour of southern China (南巡).[11] During this trip he uttered his famous phrase: "Open up" (开放). "Open up" would be the foundation for China's economic development up until the present day.

Relation to Maoism

Little evidence of Mao's approach survived in Deng.[12] Deng Xiaoping Theory argues that upholding Mao Zedong Thought does not mean blindly imitating Mao's actions without deviation as seen in the government of Hua Guofeng, and that doing so would actually "contradict Mao Zedong Thought".[13]


The Deng Xiaoping theory placed a crucial role in China reforming from its previous state-owned market economy, which resulted in a rapid increase in economic growth within the country.

Deng’s theory would be inherited by Jiang Zemin, along with aspects of Mao Zedong Thought and Marxist-Leninism, into a socio-political theory known as the “Three Represents.”[14] This theory was added to the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party in 2004.[15]

Since the 1980s, the theory has become a mandatory university class.[citation needed] Having served as the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) major policy guide since the Third Plenum of the 11th CCP National Congress in 1978, the theory was entrenched into the Communist Party's Constitution as a guiding ideology in 1997, and was also subsequently written into the Constitution of the People's Republic of China:

Since the Third Plenum of the 11th CPC Central Committee, the Chinese Communists, represented mainly by Comrade Deng Xiaoping, have summed up both the positive and negative experiences gained since the founding of New China, implemented the principle of emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts, shifted the focus of the Party's work to economic development, introduced reform and opening, ushered in a new period for the development of the socialist cause, gradually formed the line, principles and policies on building socialism with Chinese characteristics, expounded the basic issues concerning building, consolidating and developing socialism in China, and created Deng Xiaoping Theory. Deng Xiaoping Theory is a product of the integration of the basic theory of Marxism-Leninism with the practice of modern China and the characteristics of the present era, the inheritance and development of Mao Zedong Thought under new historical conditions, a new stage of the development of Marxism in China, Marxism of modern China, and the crystallization of the collective wisdom of the CPC, guiding the cause of China's socialist modernization steadily forward.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Nathan, Andrew J. (1999). Dilemmas of Reform in Jiang Zemin's China. Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 34–36, 39, 46. ISBN 978-1-55587-851-1.
  2. ^ Tang, Wenfang (2005). Public Opinion and Political Change in China. Stanford University Press. pp. 73, 75, 213. ISBN 978-0-8047-5220-6.
  3. ^ "The Years of Hardship and Danger". Peoples Daily China. 14 September 2010. Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  4. ^ Zhang, Wei-Wei (1996). Ideology and economic reform under Deng Xiaoping, 1978–1993. Routledge.
  5. ^ Xiaoping, Deng (10 October 1978). "Carry out the policy of opening to the outside world and learn advanced science and technology from other countries". Archived from the original on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  6. ^ "Ideological Foundation". Archived from the original on 21 January 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  7. ^ Peters, Michael A., "The Chinese Dream: Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era", The Chinese Dream: Educating the Future, doi:10.4324/9780429329135-3/chinese-dream-michael-peters, retrieved 4 December 2022
  8. ^ Wang, Guidong (2016). "Joint Integration of Deng Xiaoping' Reform Theory and Chinese Reform". Proceedings of the 2016 2nd International Conference on Social Science and Technology Education (ICSSTE 2016). Guangzhou, China: Atlantis Press. doi:10.2991/icsste-16.2016.80. ISBN 978-94-6252-177-3.
  9. ^ Kang, Liu (1996). "Is there an alternative to (capitalist) globalization? The debate about modernity in China". Boundary 2. 23 (3): 193–218. doi:10.2307/303642. JSTOR 303642. S2CID 164040788.
  10. ^ Moak, Ken; Lee, Miles W. N. (2015), "Deng Xiaoping Theory", China’s Economic Rise and Its Global Impact, New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, pp. 91–115, doi:10.1057/9781137535580_6, ISBN 978-1-349-55604-5, retrieved 4 December 2022
  11. ^ Zhao, Suisheng (1993). "Deng Xiaoping's southern tour: elite politics in post-Tiananmen China". Asian Survey. 33 (8): 739–756. doi:10.2307/2645086. JSTOR 2645086.
  12. ^ Baum, Richard (1996). Burying Mao: Chinese politics in the age of Deng Xiaoping. Princeton University Press.
  13. ^ Xiaoping, Deng (16 September 1978). "Hold high the banner of Mao Zedong Thought and adhere to the principle of seeking truth from facts". Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  14. ^ Backer, Larry Catá (7 November 2021). "The Communist Party as Polity and the Chinese Party-State Constitutional Order". Rochester, NY. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ Huang, Yibing (2020). An ideological history of the Communist Party of China. Qian Zheng, Guoyou Wu, Xuemei Ding, Li Sun, Shelly Bryant (First English ed.). Montreal, Quebec. ISBN 978-1-4878-0425-1. OCLC 1165409653.
  16. ^ "Constitution of the Communist Party of China". China Internet Information Center. 18 September 1997.

Further reading