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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 06, 1989

NOTE ABOUT THE MEETING BETWEEN HU QILI AND HERBERT NAUMANN

This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation

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    Hu Qili describes ongoing economic reforms in China. As for political reform, Hu indicates that China wants "to further unfold socialist democracy and perfect the judicial system."
    "Note about the Meeting between Hu Qili and Herbert Naumann," April 06, 1989, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO-BA, DY 30, 2437. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122030
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Note about the meeting between the member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Hu Qili, with Herbert Naumann, Editor-in-chief of “Neues Deutschland”[1], in Beijing on 6 April 1989

[handwritten note: EH [Erich Honecker], 15 April 89, To the Members and Candidates of the Politburo]

Hu Qili welcomed Herbert Naumann in the Central Committee of the CCP and the later forwarded the cordial greetings of Erich Honecker to the comrades in the CCP leadership. [Naumann] related his impressions from the 8-day-visit to Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou and informed about the invitation to 'Renmin Ribao'[2] as a guest of honor at the 1989 Press Festival of 'Neues Deutschland' (ND). Hu Qili responded: “I am happy about your nice words. The friendly contacts between 'Neues Deutschland' and 'Renmin Ribao' will contribute to the deepening of mutual understanding between our peoples and countries, and between our parties.

I thank you very much for the greetings of Erich Honecker which I reciprocate with the same cordiality also in the name of the General Secretary of the CCP, Zhao Ziyang. Erich Honecker's visit to China in 1986 and the visit by Zhao Ziyang to your country have launched a new chapter in relations between our two countries. Since then, friendship and collaboration between our two countries have intensified. We look at this with great satisfaction. We care a lot about collaboration and friendly contacts between our parties, peoples, and countries. In your country the economy is developed, the work in your country is guided better than here. This is due to the reason that in our country we went on a zigzag path while you pursued a relatively stable course. However, you are also confronted with specific problems. You are building socialism in a country that is a split-off from a once larger country. We are watching your successes with great satisfaction. We are old friends.” (In this context, Hu Qili also referred to regular visits by ND editors to the PR China since 1983 and the '”good cooperation with GDR Ambassador [Rolf] Berthold”).

Not much time has passed since the XIII Party Congress of the CCP. It was 10 years ago when the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Central Committee gathered. In those 10 years the reform proceeded well. Politically our country is stable. The economy has developed. The people gained lots of benefits from this. In those 10 years, the gross national product grew by a growth rate of 9.6 percent. We have reached the target to double the gross national product two years early. The living standards of peasants doubled, the living standards of people not living in the countryside increased by about 80 percent.

In developing the economy, however, we were also confronted with new problems. The biggest problem is inflation. In the past year, the rate of inflation amounted to more than 18 percent. In cities it even reached 20 percent. This led obviously to quite strong reactions by the people because prices in China had been stable for a long time.

There are two reasons for this: First, we have an atmosphere of rush from top through bottom. One wanted to get rid of the state of poverty as soon as possible and to develop the economy as quickly as possible. This was obviously a noble desire, but the consequence was that we took steps that were too big, consumption was rising too high, and the pace of development was too fast. The scope of build-up was too large, and this resulted in deficits on resources, energy, and many other things. This led to an inflation.

The second reason was that we are currently in a period of change by transitioning from an old to a new system. The old system, the old system of maximum centralized control was abolished, but the new system with more rights for factories and enterprises to create a socialist planned consumer economy has not been fully developed or perfected yet. Actually, we are now centrally controlling 50 percent of products, yet the other half we cannot control any more. Prices in this other half are fluid depending on demand and supply. However, we have two pricing systems which are very different. We do have conducted a real reform of the system of pricing. This resulted in a certain chaos in our economic life. One has lost control over several things. Plus, the existence of two systems of pricing also provides to some officials the opportunity to abuse their power, to embezzle, and to take bribes.

As a reaction to this situation, we have decided to provide better guidance of the economic situation in our country and to deepen the reform. This means in short: We want to limit the extent of our build-up and to slow down the speed of development. We want to pay greater attention to agriculture and to invest more in this area. The structure of the industry as well is supposed to receive new orientation. Money circulation is supposed to be reduced, interest rates for saving and credits should be increased.

In the six months since those measures were introduced, we have already achieved significant successes. Price are staying more or less stable. Those for certain industrial goods even have a falling tendency. The optimism of the people has grown. Of course, I have to mention here that we just started with aligning the economy. There is still quite some work to do, but this work gets very welcomed by the people, and we have achieved remarkable successes.

We want to spend still two to three more years to align the economy. In those times of economic alignment, we also have to undertake certain measures to strengthen central leadership. However, this does not indicate by any means that we have abandoned the policy of reforms and opening. Reform and opening is the fundamental development strategy of our country. We will continue to pursue it. What we are doing currently is thus a certain pause after the large development.

And another thing: The problems we currently have are problems resulting from the success of reform. There are problems generated during the path forward, not during the path backwards. We have aligned the economy once in the past. This occurred in the three years after the “Great Leap Forward” and after the Cultural Revolution. In those times, alignments happened because the economy was destroyed very badly. What we are doing today, is economic alignment after large development of the economy. This is why we combine the alignment of the economy with a deepening of the reform. Only if we deepen the reform, we can solve all the problems.

As far as political reform is concerned, we primarily want to further unfold socialist democracy and perfect the judicial system. We have a system of cooperation between several parties, and this system stood the test. We have eight democratic parties. All those eight parties respect the leading role of the Communist Party in our country. On this basis, we have also held our Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress. All these systems are supposed to become more perfected and developed further. You can say that we still have quite something left to do in our political system. The session of the National People's Congress that just ended has confirmed that there is a democratic process ongoing in China, which incorporates new forces of creative cooperation by the people. In order to maintain good governance without corruption, the control through mass media has to be developed further in our society. We need to uncover deficits in our society in order to eliminate them. All democratic parties have also established offices for petitions. The parties are motivating their members to unmask corrupt officials.

Working with the masses is thus about two things: First, the new rules and regulations have to be thoroughly explained and become a cause of the people, successes of our work must be highlighted properly. Second, controlling by the deputies of the People's Congress and by the mass media has to increase further. All this is welcomed by the masses of the people and also by the intellectuals.

However, there are also some people who offer certain old models in light of problems we encountered. For instance, there are some who claim the reform is a failure and this is in turn proof for the failure of socialism. Those people want to adopt the entire political system from the West. They want to introduce bourgeois parliamentarianism, political opposition, and also the privatization of the entire economy. Here we say with absolute clarity: We cannot copy a foreign political system, we cannot adopt the political system from the United States. China is a socialist country and has its own concrete situation. We can during our democratic course further develop democratization, but we are against a political opposition. In such a large country like China, where the economic situation is uneven, there exists the primary importance of stabilization of the political situation under the guidance of the party. Without social stability, we also could not continue to pursue the reform. Everything here in our country is occurring under the precondition of social stability!   

It is known that we have bitter experiences from the Cultural Revolution. Back then, during the period of the Cultural Revolution, any random people could establish random political groups, and they could even form their own people's militia. This is not acceptable for us today.

If there would be daily street demonstrations, today by this organization, tomorrow by that grouping, then there would be no development of the economy and development in our country any more. In this regard we share insights with the broad masses of the people and also with the intellectuals. Because the Cultural Revolution did not happen too long ago and many memories of the people are still fresh. When this is mentioned, the people say: no – opposition, something like this does not work! We are now all pulling in the same direction in order to align the economy and bring it in order. We are making efforts to implement this alignment successfully. Here we also do not exclude the possibility that a zigzag path is lying ahead of us. Very complicated tasks are awaiting us. And we have no other models we can learn from.

We also tell our people very clearly: The objective of reform is the development of society, and it is fundamental to consider the basic interests of the entire people. This includes that certain interests of individual people or groups cannot be fully considered yet. You need here even a certain willingness to make sacrifices. This means in other words: particular interests must give way to large interests, short-term interests must stay behind long-term interests, interests of individuals should currently be subsumed under interests of the entire society.  

If we tell the people quite frankly about our problems, it will bolster the people's confidence that we will overcome them. If we only show nice pictures, then its confidence will be suffering as soon as problems come up. In reality, each policy has its positive and negative aspects. A policy just with positive aspects does not exist.

The National People's Congress has demonstrated that the entire people, that all nationalities in China support and agree with this determination of the Central Committee. Agreement and support from the people is the source of our successes, and we do believe we will achieve more successes this way.”

Remarks by Herbert Naumann concerning preparation for the XII SED Party Congress and our struggle for successful implementation of decisions from the XI SED Party Congress were commented by Hu Qili with this statement: “We are pleased to see how the socialist countries, based on their own situation and counting on the principles of Marxism, are looking for their own path of development. Socialism is not just one single type, there exists a variety of forms of socialism. This variety of socialist forms is proof for how socialism is full of vitality. We are faced with political, ideological, and socioeconomic challenges. These are challenges but at the same time also opportunities for us. When we will master those challenges, socialism can develop in even bigger steps.

I am in agreement with you. Though we are rather distant in geographical terms, we have the common goal to prove that socialism is superior to capitalism. This is also the objective of our reform.

Your visit to China was successful. You have brought along the friendship of your people and your party. You also presented your experiences (with regard to a two-hour lecture by Herbert Naumann before editors of the central CCP organ titles 'About the SED's Strategy for Society and Socialism in the Colors of the GDR'). I congratulate you to the results of this visit.”

The meeting was also attended by the member of the CCP Central Committee, Qian Liren, Director of “Renmin Ribao”, GDR Ambassador Rolf Berthold, and Dr. Rolf Günther, Deputy Editor-in-chief of “Neues Deutschland”.

“Renmin Ribao” has accepted the invitation to participate as guest of honor in the 1989 Press Festival of “Neues Deutschland” with a pertinent exhibition stand and a cultural ensemble. Agreements were also made with ”Renmin Ribao” editors regarding coverage of preparations for the 40th anniversary of foundation of the GDR and the People's Republic of China.

Minutes by: Dr. Rolf Günther

[1] Neues Deutschland” [“New Germany”], was the central newspaper of the SED [Socialist Party of Germany], the GDR's ruling party.

[2] “Renmin Ribao” [“People's Daily”], is the central newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

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