Reform and Opening of China (改革开放)


    The Reform and Opening (改革开放) of China refers to the economic reform program launched by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 upon his ascension to the position of China’s de facto paramount leader.

    Reform and Opening brought an end to nearly three decades of efforts to close off the Chinese economy, and launched a period of intense, high-speed growth.

    Start of Reform and Opening

    18 December 1978 is considered to mark the start of China’s Reform and Opening, being the date of the first day of the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

    The 3rd Plenary Session cemented Deng’s position as China’s paramount leader, and saw Beijing attempt to distance itself from the recently concluded Cultural Revolution.

    The Session repudiated the “Two Whatevers” (两个凡是) policy advocated by Mao Zedong’s successor Hua Guo Feng, which was a reference to “resolutely upholding whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave” (凡是毛主席作出的决策,我们都坚决维护;凡是毛主席的指示,我们都始终不渝地遵循).

    This move eventually culminated in Hua’s demotion from the party leadership by 1980.

    The Session abandoned Mao Zedong’s theory of continuous revolution under socialism, to instead endorse former President Liu Shaoqi’s theory of mass class struggle coming to an end under a socialist government.

    It brought an end to the use of the slogan “class struggle is the key” (以阶级斗争为纲), and called for a shift towards the development of socialist modernisation.

    Deng highlighted in particular the need to “reform internally and open up externally,” and “liberation of thought and seeking truth from facts.”

    In his speech “Liberation of Thought, Seeking Truth from Facts, Unification and Looking Forward” (解放思想,实事求是,团结一致向前看), Deng said that:

    Liberation of thought is the key political issue at present. Democracy is the key condition for liberation of thought. Handling of residual problems is to look forward, and requires research into new circumstances and resolving new problems. If we no longer implement reform at present, our modernisation undertakings and socialist undertakings will be buried. We must allow certain regions, certain enterprises, certain workers and peasants, to earn slightly more and enjoy better lives in advance as result of their hard work and diligence. This is the grand policy.”

    Key economic policies included the unveiling of the “Four Modernizations” of industry, agriculture, national defence and science and technology, and calls for changes to economic management.

    The Early Reform and Opening Period

    The first two decades of the Reform and Opening period saw protracted conflict between Deng Xiaoping, as head of the Reformist Faction, and Chen Yun ( 陈云), considered head of the the Conservatives, as well as the second most powerful person in China after Deng during the 1980’s and 1990’s. 

    Deng, Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang were the leading figures of the Reformist Faction, and were referred to as the “Three horse Chariot” of Reform and Opening.

    and had obtained the critical support of key Communist Party elders such as Ye Jianying.

    The Conservative Faction,