Good Essay On Deng Xiaoping, Pragmatism And A New Type Of Relationship

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: China, Relationships, Politics, World, Leadership, Power, United States, Development

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/03/04

I. Introduction
When the U.S. and China normalized relationships 35 years ago, it could be argued that neither side thought it was a relationship of equals. The U.S. was a superpower and China was in the beginning stages of extricating itself from nearly a decade of isolation following the Cultural Revolution and the death of Mao Zedong. Over the last three decades, however, Chinese development has flourished at a hyperactive pace. That development was powered by a shift in priorities in the late 1970s from one that mainly focused on mass mobilization, political indoctrination and absolute loyalty to Communist ideology to one that emphasized pragmatism, economic modernization and the opening of China to the outside world.
Deng Xiaoping was the Chinese leader most responsible for initiating China’s modernization (Spence 1999, 653). His initiatives and policies to change China’s priorities, in essence, focused on finding and using the most effective methods of improving China, regardless of where they came from, as quickly as possible. His philosophy was summed up in his famous saying, “It doesn’t matter what color the cat is, as long as it catches rats, there is no problem” (Spence 1999, 658). Deng’s pragmatic policies have proven quite successful. Today, China has one of the world’s biggest markets; largest Internet populations; fastest growing economies and most powerful militaries. It is, by most metrics, America’s equal. This was most recently illustrated in the 2013 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama where President Xi’s reference to “building a new type of major country relations” with the U.S. suggested that he, and many in China’s leadership, now believe the U.S.-China relationship is one of equals and that after three decades the U.S. (and the world) should treat China as the major power that it has become (Erickson and Liff 2014).
It is important to note, that China’s development did not occur without assistance from others. Despite their rivalry, the United States has played a role in China’s development. Whether from the early and consistent investment by U.S. businesses in China to the thousands of American students, teachers, doctor and professionals that poured into China since 1979, American provided China with an example to either learn from or avoid. Today, the Chinese-American relationship is one of the most important in the world. Accordingly, “building a new type of relation” is a policy of enormous importance to both nations.
II. Background
China was not always a communist state. For the majority of its history, China was ruled by a succession of emperor lead dynasties. China’s last dynasty, which was known as the Qing, ruled for over 250 years. In 1911, the Qing Dynasty was overthrown and the Republic of China was established. Unfortunately, the leader that replaced the Qing emperor, proved as ineffective. By 1916, there was no unified government in China. Instead power was divided among a group of powerful warlords and former imperial army officers. At about that time, two political parties were established, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The KMT was led by Sun Yat-sen, a former medical doctor who was a devoted nationalist and supporter of democracy. The CCP, on other hand, was led by a group of intellectuals who had a common interest in Marxist philosophy and the Soviet Revolution in Russia.
Although the KMT and CCP had theoretically different philosophies they put aside their differences in the hopes of unifying China under one leader. In the early 1920s, the KMT and CCP cautiously merged into one party under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen. When Sun died in 1925, however, tensions between the groups surfaced eventually leading to the near extermination of the CCP by KMT forces operating under the orders of Sun’s successor Chiang Kai-shek. Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping and others, the CCP was not only able to recover but also gain the trust and support of the majority of the Chinese public. Eventually the CCP was able to unify China and force the KMT flee to Taiwan. On October, 10, 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in Beijing.
III. Role of Government
China is a communist state. All power and authority begins and ends with the CCP. CCP members “exist in all official and semi-official organization” where they “wield great power” in ensuring that all activity complies with CCP ideological and political requirements (Lawrence and Martin, 2013, 20). The CCP has a unitary structure. All lower provincial, county and city CCP branches answer to the highest party authority. The CCP Politburo sits at the top of the party system and at the top of the Politburo is the Standing Committee (PSC). All CCP policy and decisions are made by the PSC. The PSC is currently made up of CCP’s and Chinese government’s top seven leaders. At the head of the SC is President Xi Jinping. While in theory the other six members are equal in power to Xi, based on his leadership positions as the Chairman of the CCP, the head of the government, and Chairman of the China’s Central Military Commission, Xi’s authority and power is dominant (Lawrence and Martin, 2013, 22).
IV. Current Situation
China’s economic modernization was begun by Deng Xiaoping. As mentioned, Deng Xiaoping was one of the CCP’s top leaders during the 1930s and 1940s. He continued as such after the establishment of the PRC in 1949. Indeed, by 1955 he was picked to be the General Secretary of the CCP. Although Deng was a staunch communist, he was also deeply pragmatic (Yang, 1993, 448-450). He believed that just because China was a Communist nation did not mean that it had to blindly follow Communist ideas, especially if the proved ineffective. Deng’s pragmatism, however, caused a number of problems for his continued advancement within the CCP. This was especially true when his decisions ran counter to China’s top leader, Mao Zedong. Unlike Deng, Mao was a deeply ideological person who believed that obedience and loyalty to the CCP were no only the most important traits are person could have but also the traits that would ultimately allow China to triumph over its enemies (Nathan, 1973, 50).
As a consequence of his belief in pragmatic policies, Deng was arrested and imprisoned three times after 1949. The last time he was arrested occurred shortly after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Several years later, however, Deng was able to regain control and finally establish himself as Mao’s successor and China’s supreme leader. As leader Deng, launched a broad range of economic initiatives which encouraged Chinese develop themselves economically. He also agreed to end China’s international isolation by opening China to foreign investment. He also encouraged Chinese companies to go abroad, learn, return and put what they learned to use domestically.
One of Deng’s most important acts in ending China’s isolation was normalizing relations with the United States. Since the normalization of relations, the U.S. and China have over three decades of history in building the infrastructure to support a new type of relationship. To be sure, the U.S. and China are each other’s largest trading partners and are increasingly the focus of each other’s largest companies. Moreover, there currently exist a wide range of dialog and exchange mechanisms for American and Chinese leaders to meet including the establishment of a direct line of communications between each nation’s presidents. Since 2012, President Obama and President Xi Jinping have met a number of times over the course of their respective terms in power. Accordingly, the institutionalization of relationship-building support structures makes developing a new type of relationship more a question of when rather than how.
V. Whys is this issue important
While at first glance, China’s new disposition may be viewed as a challenge to America’s position in the world, a closer analysis suggests that it provides as many opportunities as there are challenges. Indeed, the three main features of the policy namely non-conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation offer a number of ways for the U.S. and China to grow together rather than apart.
First, the U.S. and China share a number of leadership positions such as being the two largest economies in the world, having seats on the UN Security Council and anchoring both sides of the Asia-Pacific region. Naturally, these leadership positions will require the constant attention of both nations and will bring them together time after time to settle disputes or resolve problems. Consequently, there are and will be ample opportunity for both nations to implement and develop their relationship with each other. Working together with non-conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation on the myriad issues that confront them will go a long way to cementing “a new type of relationship.” One possible illustration of this was recently seen in the agreement to remove of chemical weapons from Syria. China agreed to provide tracking equipment to monitor the movement of weapons caches from Syria’s interior to the Mediterranean coast (Cumming-Bruce, 2013). The caches will then be transported by a Dutch vessel to a special U.S. naval ship where they will be broken down into their non-lethal parts and destroyed. The Chinese vessel will also provide naval escort and security services for the U.S. ship while it works on destroying the chemical weapons.
Another illustration can be found in American and Chinese efforts to help resolve the situation in South Sudan. As the two largest investors (financial, developmental and diplomatic) in South Sudan; the two largest economies in the world, the two biggest energy consumers and permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US and China share a number of common interests, points of leverage, and goals in developing deeper cooperation to bring about South Sudanese peace.
Second, China-U.S. economic interdependence has risen to such a level that a new type of relationship is absolutely necessary. For example, the global financial crisis has shown that no matter how large or powerful a country is, there are some problems that it cannot solve on its own. Instead, nations must work together in order to implement an effective, global and comprehensive resolution. Accordingly, the U.S. and China have been working together to find ways to “harmonize” their economic and financial policies to bring an end to the crisis.
VI. The UN, World Health Organization and the World Health Organization
The main reaction of the main international organizations to China’s new type of major power relationship has been that they welcome the opportunity to working in cooperation with China in solving to the most persistent problems plaguing the planet such as hunger, poverty and development. These problems are best solved with global, multilateral, and bilateral efforts; China’s opening can help this on all levels.
VII. Other Countries
China’s emphasis of forging a new type of major power relationship with the rest of the world has affected different countries differently. For instance, China’s closest neighbor Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam have viewed the policy with caution and as a sign that China may be more aggressive in how it deals with them. On the other hand, Russia, Brazil and several nations in Africa have viewed it positively as it adds an alternative and counterbalance to US-EU initiatives.
VIII. Potential Future
Despite the many areas of opportunity for the building of a new type of relationship, there are also a number of future challenges that are working to degrade the current relationship and pose a threat to its operational feasibility. One challenge is navigating the numerous differences in history, culture, language, political systems and legal tradition that exist between the two nations and between China and the rest of the world. These differences will necessarily lead to disagreements. For example, China’s recent decision requiring candidates for the next Hong Kong chief executive are approved by a pro-Beijing committee lead to a U.S. State Department comment stating the U.S. belief that universal suffrage would enhance the legitimacy of the chief executive. Another challenge is dealing with each nation’s current commitments. Japan is one of the America’s closest allies yet relations between China and Japan have never been strong. On the other hand, China is one of Russia top allies; however, U.S. and Russian relations are at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. As a result, the commitments that each nation has will be a continuous burden on the development of a new type of relationship.


Cumming-Bruce, Nick. 2013. “Chemical Weapons Agency Unveils Plan for Destroying Syria’s Stockpile.” New York Times, December 18. Accessed on April 5, 2015,
Erickson, Andrew S., and Adam P. Liff. 2014. “Not-So-Empty Talk: The Danger of China’s “New Type of Great-Power Relations” Slogan. Foreign Affairs, October 9. Accessed April 5, 2015.
Lawrence, Susan V., and Michael F. Martin. 2013. “Understanding China’s Political System.” Accessed April 5, 2015.
Nathan, Andrew J. 1973. “A Factionalism Model for CCP Politics.” The China Quarterly 53: 34-66.
Spence, Jonathan. (1999). The Search for Modern China. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Tang, Tsou. 1976. “Prolegomenon to the Study of Informal Groups in CCP Politics.” The China Quarterly 65: 98-117.
Yang, Benjamin. 1993. “The Making of a Pragmatic Communist: The Early Life of Deng Xiaoping, 1904-49.” The China Quarterly 135: 444-456.

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