As the architect of China's reform and opening-up policy, late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping contributed greatly to the country's steady performance over the past 25 years.
When Deng came back to power after the chaotic Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), China reported a per capita gross domestic product less than 250 US dollars. The idea that "the poorer a country is, the more revolutionary it is" and other foolish economic policies pushed the Chinese economy to the brink of collapse.
Deng unlocked ideology-tight China, declaring "poverty is not socialism." He laid a solid foundation for the upcoming reform and opening-up policy and modern construction theories.
"Deng played a historical role in changing Chinese people's mindset," said Wen Xianyuan, an expert on Deng's theories in the southern province of Guangdong.
In keeping with the pragmatic idea illustrated by a famous saying, "cross the river by touching the stones," Deng and his colleagues started the ambitious economic reform from rural areas that are home to some 800 million people. By contracting cropland to farmers without changing the state ownership of the land, Deng's team kindled Chinese farmers' desire to increase crop production and pursuing a wealthier life.
Meanwhile, many Chinese farmers started their own businesses and many of them got "the first barrel of gold," which later developed into multi-million-dollar businesses in the following two decades.
In addition to his ice-breaking rural reforms, Deng made the most inspirational move in his political career in 1980, setting up four special economic zones in south China's coastal regions as experimental fields for large-scale market-oriented reform in urban areas.
According to Li Hao, former Party secretary of Shenzhen, one of the four special economic zones, Deng expected success from the four zones while being fully prepared for difficulties and failures.
"He encouraged us to fight for a way out," recalled Li during an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
With unprecedented preferential policies and decision-making powers, Shenzhen and the other economic zones not only succeeded in the struggle for survival but also became models for other Chinese localities and countries undergoing significant economic transformation.
From 1980 to 2003, economic boomtown Shenzhen reported an average annual growth of 28.3 percent and total tax incomes valued at 46.7 billion yuan (US$5.65 billion). The former small fishing village now ranks the fourth in GDP among Chinese cities, next only to Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.
"Shenzhen is one of the most passionate works of Deng Xiaoping," said Su Dongbin, an economic professor with Shenzhen University.
While guiding China to embark on a journey toward "socialist market economy," Deng also initiated political reforms by terminating the lifelong employment of senior Party and government officials and introducing a retirement system to prevent idolization and ensure smooth transition of political power between generations.
Deng not only found a development path catering to China's specific conditions, but is still influencing the country in ongoing reforms seven years after his death.
"Deng's pragmatic and innovative spirit will continue to benefit China in the coming years," said Wen Xianyuan, the Deng theory expert.
Laurence Brahm, who stayed in China since 1981 and now a known China expert, told Xinhua that Deng's most precious legacy lies inhis spirit of pragmatism, which "will be very useful to China in the future."
(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2004)