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China: Deng Xiaoping's Seminal Role
Country Study > Chapter 11 > The Political Process > The Politics of Modernization > Deng Xiaoping's Seminal Role


Although post-Mao pronouncements by the Chinese Communist Party officially emphasized collective leadership, Deng Xiaoping clearly occupied center stage and acquired unique political stature in the party hierarchy (without even holding the titular number-one position). Following the consolidation of Deng's power at the Twelfth National Party Congress in 1982, the party issued The Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. The book was intended to provide authoritative ideological backing for the reform program in progress and became required reading for party members. Another volume, entitled Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, issued in 1985, contained speeches and writings on economic policy, ideological questions, and foreign policy written by Deng after the Twelfth National Party Congress. A major purpose of the later work was to support the dramatic reforms introduced at the Third Plenum of that congress's Central Committee in October 1984. This book was re-released in March 1987 with additional speeches and remarks on intervening events, purportedly with the intention of providing extensive guidance for reform. Given the volume and frequency of publication, it became difficult for the reform leadership to avoid the appearance of creating a cult of personality around Deng.

Deng was an effective bridge between China's legendary revolutionary generation and the generation engaged in carrying out the Four Modernizations. At the same time, Deng's preeminence called attention to the succession issue. The resolution of problems emerging in the course of reform depended heavily on Deng's political backing and on his authoritative reform pronouncements. In large measure, Deng's published works would support later leaders by providing them an authoritative source with which to bolster their own reform measures. Like any body of writing, however, Deng's thoughts are open to interpretation and thus might as easily be used by an opposition group for its own ends.

Data as of July 1987

Last Updated: July 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for China was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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