Southern Excursion Talks (Deng Xiaoping, 1992)

Southern Excursion Talks (Deng Xiaoping, 1992)
A relatively new political phenomenon in post-Mao China has been the high frequency of visits by national leaders to the provinces. In some instances, these so-called inspection trips have led to major policy decisions. From 18 January through 21 February 1992, Deng Xiaoping journeyed to the southern cities of Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai, delivering talks on economic and political matters. Unlike trips by other leaders, Deng’s southern tour (nanxun) soon assumed an extraordinary importance in Chinese economic and political developments.
Deng called on political leaders of all levels, particularly those in the provinces, to break free of socialist ideological strictures and boldly adopt measures associated with capitalism—market mechanisms, stocks and stock exchanges, foreign investments. According to Deng, what counted were increases in production, productivity, living standards and national strength. Deng encouraged Chinese officials to emulate Singapore, which had succeeded in creating a dynamic economy along with a stable political and social order (see political culture in Singapore). For these reasons, Deng wished to see the Party install young reformers in leading positions.
The timing of Deng’s trip seems to have been associated with the turnaround in the political situation in Eastern Europe and particularly with the collapse of the conservative coup in Russia. And with the pro-democracy movement of April– June 1989 still fresh in his mind, Deng apparently decided that to ensure the survival of the CCP there was no alternative but to carry the reforms even further. The domestic situation in China was worrisome, as the conservatives in Beijing had launched a propaganda campaign in 1990–1 to discredit the reforms. Deng was determined that the new Party leadership that would emerge in the Fourteenth Party Congress later that year would be overwhelmingly reformist.
Deng’s southern tour produced two immediate results. First, Deng’s designated successor, Jiang Zemin, was emboldened to act more decisively than he had before and implemented a series of experiments with the introduction of stocks, the reduction of price controls, the closure of inefficient state enterprises, and the installation of a civil service system. Second, Shanghai became the new growth centre of China, for what Deng had wanted for all of China was where Shanghai had excelled in the pre-Communist era (see political culture in Shanghai).
Deng and his successors also wished to gain symbolically from the trips. The regular inspection tours were a substitute for democracy, by signifying that the post-Mao Communist Party had moved closer to the people, in contrast to Mao’s aloofness and isolation. Second, Deng’s southern excursion reflects the fact that the political centre of China, for all ages, lies in a paramount leader, not in a national consensus derived from a constitutional and representative process.
See also: xiahai
Daily Report-Supplement: China (1992). ‘Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Trip’. FBIS-CHI-92–063-S (1 April 1992): 1–18.
MacFarquhar, R. (1992). ‘Deng’s Last Campaign’. The New York Review of Books (12 December): 22–8.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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