BEIJING: Celebrations of the achievements of great Chinese reformer Deng Xiaoping reached climax on Friday, with politicians and the public recognizing the importance of his legacy at a time when the country’s reform is intensifying to new levels.
Friday marked the 110th anniversary of Deng’s birth and the end of several days of events held across the country to honor the memory of the politician who led his country toward a market economy.
Deng was born on Aug. 22, 1904 in Guang’an in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Drizzling rain on Friday did not stop people in the city laying flowers before a bronze statue of Deng at his former residence and bowing in respect. “We should thank Deng for our current prosperity,” said Liu Jianxin, a Guang’an resident who was visiting the statue with his granddaughter. “His reform and opening-up policy solved our food and clothing problems.”
Deng died in 1997. He was widely revered for his political courage, innovation and strategic thinking. His commemoration in 2014 is especially significant as it comes in a year in which China’s new leadership has announced plans to “comprehensively deepen reform.” Officials and the public could certainly use his will to confront this current tough task.
China’s reform and opening up, which began in the late 1970s, brought the nation into a phase of rapid development following the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. At a symposium at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday, President Xi Jinping described Deng as “the chief architect of China’s socialist reform, opening up and modernization.”
Xi said the leadership should learn from Deng’s political courage, vowing to proceed with reform and opening up without hesitation. Participants in a seminar in Shanghai compared the recent opening of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) to the establishment in the early 1990s of the Pudong New Area, a vanguard development of which Deng was a major propellant.
“The strategy Deng advocated was reform driven by opening up. Today, the strategy still holds for Shanghai and the whole country alike,” said Zhou Hanmin, an expert in international law who was involved with the construction of the Pudong New Area. China’s new package of reforms was unveiled at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in November. The work’s general objective is to modernize state governance.
It has been recognized that the key way of doing that is through strengthening the rule of law and squashing corruption. Again, this was also one of Deng’s main messages more than 40 years ago. “Corruption could lead to the collapse of the Party and the fall of the state. We should purify the Party and strive for the public interest. That is the best commemoration of Deng,” said Chen Jianhua, mayor of Guangzhou in south China’s Guangdong Province.
An editorial published by the People’s Daily on Friday reviewed Deng’s emphasis on the rule of law. People must adhere to and have confidence in the country’s legal system, it said, quoting the famous Deng soundbite “construction of the market and legal system must keep pace with each other for China’s new road of reform.”
“We cannot pin our hopes on any individual person. Market and legal systems are fundamental,” said Yuan Yinchuan, deputy head of the School of Marxism at central China’s Wuhan University. “Forming these stable and long-term systems is the best memorial for Deng Xiaoping.”
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