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The Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee


The 11th CPC Central Committee convened its third plenary session in Beijing from December 18 to 22, 1978. Discussions centered on the issue of shifting the Party's focus to socialist modernization. At the earlier Central Work Conference from November 10 to December 15, suggestions were made regarding the Party's shift of focus and the restoration and promotion of the Party's best traditions. In his speech at the closing session of this conference, Deng Xiaoping called on Party members to free themselves from ideological straitjackets, seek truth from facts, and forge ahead in unity. Deng's speech later also served as his keynote report to the third plenary session that followed.

During the session, important decisions were made on such issues as economic adjustment, reform of economic governance, promoting agricultural development, and improving the people's wellbeing. The session also reaffirmed the Party's commitment to Marxist ideological, political, and organizational guidelines.

This event had far-reaching significance. It marked a major turning point in the history of the CPC after the founding of the People's Republic, an end to the lengthy dominance of "leftist" mistakes that had trapped China in blind obedience to the instructions of Mao. It also set guidelines for moving forward in unity, emphasizing the need to break free from rigid ideological constraints and seek truth from facts. Reform and opening up was now placed high on the agenda of the CPC Central Committee. An obsession with class struggle gave way to a focus on economic development. Rigidity and isolation were replaced by change and openness. A historic transformation was thus launched.

Guided by new thinking, innovative policies were later developed on socialist development, especially the Party's new guiding framework ("one central task and two basic points"), which was formulated by taking into consideration China's existing conditions in the primary stage of socialism. The framework identified economic development as the "central task," with the "two basic points" being a commitment to the Four Cardinal Principles (socialism, the people's democratic dictatorship, leadership by the CPC, and Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought) and a commitment to reform and opening up. It put China on track to build socialism with Chinese characteristics through the process of reform and opening up.

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