Chen Yun

Chen Yun

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Chen Yun was one of the most influential leaders of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 during the 1980s and 90s, and one of the top leaders of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 for almost its entire history. He was also known as Liao Chengyun (廖程雲); it's unclear whether this was his original name or a pseudonym he used during his underground work in Shanghai. He was one of the Big Five in Communist China
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 along with Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

, Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

, Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, and Zhu De
Zhu De
Zhu De was a Chinese militarist, politician, revolutionary, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Communist Party. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, in 1955 Zhu became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the founder.-Early...

 and considered to be one of the Eight Immortals of Communist Party of China.

Chen was a Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is the highest authority within the Communist Party of China. Its approximately 350 members and alternates are selected once every five years by the National Party Congress....

 Alternate in 1930-31 (a much more prestigious position than today, due to their very small numbers), Director of the CC Organization Department in 1938, and attended the 7th Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

 Congress in Moscow in 1935. He was elevated to the Central Committee and its Politburo in 1940, and remained on the Politburo until August 1966. He was elected party Vice Chairman in 1956, but was only an ordinary Central Committee member under the 9th CC (1969). Chen was reinstated to his Vice Chairmanship in January 1975.

Early life


A native of Qingpu
Qingpu District
Qingpu District is a district of Shanghai Municipality, China. The only freshwater lake of Shanghai, Lake Dianshan, the source of the Huangpu River, is located in Qingpu.The population of Qingpu was 1,081,000. It has an area of 675.11 km²....

 (now part of Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

), Chen was one of the few Communist Party organizers from an urban working class background; he worked underground as a union organizer in the late 1920s, participated in the Long March
Long March
The Long March was a massive military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south...

, and served on the Central Committee from 1931 to 1987. He was active throughout his career in the field of economics, despite receiving no formal education after elementary school.

As a typesetter for the famous Commercial Press
Commercial Press
-History:In 1897, 26-year-old Xia Ruifang and three of his friends founded The Commercial Press in Shanghai. The group soon received financial backing and began publishing books. In 1914, Xia attempted to buy out a Japanese company that had invested in the Commercial Press. Four days later he was...

 of Shanghai, Chen played a prominent role as a younger organizer in the labor movement during the early and mid 1920s, joining the CPC in 1924. Following the May 30 Movement
May 30 Movement
The May Thirtieth Movement was a labor and anti-imperalist movement during the middle-period of the Republic of China era. It began when Shanghai Municipal Police officers opened fire on Chinese protesters in Shanghai's International Settlement...

 of 1925, Chen was an important organizer under Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

 and Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

. After Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 turned against the CPC in 1927, Chen fled to his hometown, but soon returned to Shanghai and secretly continued his work as a labor unionist.

He served on the Central Committee in the Third Plenary Session
Plenary session
Plenary session is a term often used in conferences to define the part of the conference when all members of all parties are to attend.These sessions may contain a broad range of content from keynotes to panel discussions and are not necessarily related to a specific style of delivery.The term has...

 of Sixth Central Committee of CPC
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is the highest authority within the Communist Party of China. Its approximately 350 members and alternates are selected once every five years by the National Party Congress....

 in 1930 and became a member of the Politburo in 1934. In 1933 he evacuated to Ruijin
Ruijin
Ruijin is a county-level city of Ganzhou in the mountains bordering Fujian Province in south-eastern Jiangxi.The name derives from the ancient God, Rui Jin. It is most famous as one of the earliest centers of Chinese communist activity...

,in Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

 province,the headquarters of the CPC's main "soviet" area. He was in overall charge of the Party's "white areas" work, that is, underground activities in places not under Party control. On the Long March he was one of the four Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau who attended the January 1935 Zunyi Conference
Zunyi Conference
The Zunyi Conference was a meeting of the Communist Party of China in January of 1935 during the Long March. This meeting involved a power struggle between the leadership of Bo Gu and Otto Braun and the opposition led by Mao Zedong. The result was that Mao left the meeting in position to take...

. He left the Long March sometime in the spring of 1935, returning to Shanghai, and in September 1935 year he went to Moscow, serving as one of the CPC's representatives to the Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

. In 1937 Chen returned to China as an adviser to the Xinjiang leader Sheng Shicai
Sheng Shicai
Sheng Shicai was a Chinese warlord who "ruled" Xinjiang province from April 12, 1933 to August 29, 1944....

. Chen later joined Mao in Yan'an
Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

, probably before the end of 1937. In November 1937 he became director of the Party's Organization Department, serving in that capacity until 1944, and by the early 1940s was in the inner circle of Mao's advisers. His writings on organization, ideology, and cadre training were included in the important study materials for the Yan'an Rectification Movement of 1942, a campaign of political persecutions which consolidated Mao's power within the Party.

Maoist politician


Chen’s economic career began in 1942, when he was replaced by Ren Bishi
Ren Bishi
Ren Bishi was a rising figure in the Chinese Communist Party until his death at the age of 46. He was born in Hunan and was ranked 5th in the 7th Politburo of the Communist Party of China.-References:...

 as head of the CPC Organization Department. In his new position, Chen was assigned responsibility for the financial management of Northwest China. Two years later, he was identified as responsible for finance in the Shaan-Gan-Ning
Shaan-Gan-Ning
Shaan-Gan-Ning was one of the two border region governments with the capital at Yan'an, named after the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia...

 Border Region as well. He added Northeast China to his portfolio in 1946 (under the overall leadership of General Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

 and Political Commissar Peng Zhen
Peng Zhen
Peng Zhen was a leading member of the Communist Party of China.-Biography:Born in Houma , Peng was originally named Fu Maogong....

.

In May 1949, Chen Yun was named head of the new national Central Finance and Economic Commission. In early 1952, Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

 led a team to draft the first Five-Year Plan which included Chen, Bo Yibo
Bo Yibo
Bo Yibo was a Chinese politician and one of the Eight Immortals of the Communist Party of China....

, Li Fuchun
Li Fuchun
Li Fuchun was a politician of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China.-Biography:Li Fuchun was born in Changsha, Hunan Province. After completing middle school in his home province, in 1919 he traveled to France to attend a work-study program and here he started his...

 and General Nie Rongzhen
Nie Rongzhen
Nie Rongzhen was a prominent Chinese Communist military leader, and one of ten Marshals in the People's Liberation Army of China. He was the last surviving PLA officer with the rank of Marshal.-Biography:...

. Zhou, Chen and Li presented the draft to Soviet experts in Moscow, who rejected it. In early 1953, Gao Gang
Gao Gang
Gao Gang was a Chinese Communist Party leader during the Chinese Civil War and the early years of the People's Republic of China , before becoming the victim of the first major purge within the CCP since before 1949...

 and the State Planning Commission began work on what would eventually become the final version. After Gao's fall, Chen, Bo Yibo, Li Fuchuan and (later) Li Xiannian
Li Xianniàn
Li Xiannian was President of the People's Republic of China between 1983 and 1988 and then chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until his death. He was an influential political figure throughout the PRC, having been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of...

 would manage the Chinese economy for the next 30+ years.

Throughout the 1950s, Chen was the official who did the most to moderate Mao's radical economic reforms. Looking back, Chen would later believe that it was the Chairman's errors that most kept China from achieving its Five-Year Plans. In 1956, when the 8th National Congress of Communist Party of China was held, Chen was elected a Vice-chairman of the Central Committee. Around that time, both Mao and Chen had come to believe that the economic system, modeled on that of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, was overly centralized, but had different ideas about what to do about it. Chen’s proposal was to make wider use of the market, allowing for the operation of supply and demand
Supply and demand
Supply and demand is an economic model of price determination in a market. It concludes that in a competitive market, the unit price for a particular good will vary until it settles at a point where the quantity demanded by consumers will equal the quantity supplied by producers , resulting in an...

 rather than simple government fiat in determining the allocation of resources. He argued that decisions concerning prices and production should be made by individual firms, in conformity with business logic. At the same time he favored giving the central government ministries stronger control over these firms, to assure that their decisions did not transgress the boundaries of the plan.

Mao's idea, rather, was to devolve powers to provincial and local authorities, in practice Party committees rather than state technocrats, and to use mass mobilization rather than either a detailed central plan or the market to promote economic growth. Mao's program prevailed, and these policies converged with the rest of the ultimately disastrous Great Leap Forward
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China , reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern...

. By early 1959 the economy was already showing signs of strain. In January of that year Chen Yun published an article calling for increased Soviet aid, perhaps a signal to Moscow that the wild men were no longer in control of the economy. In March he published a subdued but general critique of the Leap, especially its reliance on the mass movement. Economic growth, he asserted, is not simply a matter of speed. It requires attention to safe working conditions and quality engineering. It depends on technical skill, not just political awareness.

Attempts to lead China's economic recovery


This was Chen's last public statement during Mao's lifetime. In the summer of 1959 the Party convened a meeting at the resort town of Lushan to review the policies of the Leap. The Minister of Defense, Marshal Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai was a prominent military leader of the Communist Party of China, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese civil war and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army in the Korean War...

, attacked the radicalism of the Leap, and Mao took this, or affected to take it, as an attack on himself and his authority. Mao responded with a vicious personal attack on Peng. Peng lost his military positions and the Party undertook a general purge of right opportunism
Anti-Rightist Movement
The Anti-Rightist Movement of the People's Republic of China in the 1950s and early 1960s consisted of a series of campaigns to purge alleged "rightists" within the Communist Party of China and abroad...

. Further reform of the Leap policies was now out of the question. China continued on its set course for another year or more, and by the end of 1960 had fallen deep into famine.

Chen Yun was certainly in sympathy with Peng Dehuai's criticism of the Leap, but he was not included among the right opportunists. Chen joined forces with Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping to manage the economy in the post-Great Leap Forward period, which required deft handling of Chairman Mao's sensitivity to criticism.

Although Chen nominally retained his positions as Party vice chairman and member of the Politburo, he was no longer in practice part of the core Party leadership. He did, however, continue to express his opinions behind the scenes. In 1961 he conducted investigations of the rural areas around Shanghai. According to a Cultural Revolution attack on him by the radical group within the finance system, he reported the peasants as saying: "In the days of Chiang Kai-shek we had rice to eat. In the glorious era of Chairman Mao, we have only gruel." According to his obituary, Chen was one of the main designers of the economic policies of the 1961-1962 "capitalist road"
Capitalist roader
In Maoist thought, a capitalist roader or is a person or group who demonstrates a marked tendency to bow to pressure from Bourgeois forces and subsequently attempts to pull the Revolution in a capitalist direction....

 era, when China's economic policy stressed material incentives and sought to encourage economic growth in preference to pursuing ideological goals. This approach is often referred to as Chen's "bird-cage" theory of post-Great Leap economic recovery, where the bird represents the free market and the cage represents a central plan. Chen proposed that a balance should be found between "setting the bird free" and choking the bird with a central plan that was too restrictive; this theory would later become a focal point of criticism against Chen during the Cultural Revolution. His only public appearance during this time was a photograph of him published on the front page of the People's Daily and other major newspapers on May 1 1962, showing a somewhat emaciated Chen shaking hands with Chairman Mao, while Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De
Zhu De
Zhu De was a Chinese militarist, politician, revolutionary, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Communist Party. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, in 1955 Zhu became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the founder.-Early...

, and Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

 (the entire inner core of leadership of that time, with the exception of Lin Biao) look on. There was no caption or any other explanation.

During the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, Chen Yun was denounced in Red Guard
Red Guards (China)
Red Guards were a mass movement of civilians, mostly students and other young people in the People's Republic of China , who were mobilized by Mao Zedong in 1966 and 1967, during the Cultural Revolution.-Origins:...

 publications but not in the official press. He was re-elected to the Central Committee in the Ninth Party Congress in April 1969 but not to the Politburo. He no longer held any functional positions. Later that year he was "evacuated" from Beijing, as were many other inactive or disgraced first-generation leaders, as part of a supposed plan preparing against the eventuality of an invasion by the Soviet Union. Chen was put to work in a factory in Nanchang
Nanchang
Nanchang is the capital of Jiangxi Province in southeastern China. It is located in the north-central portion of the province. As it is bounded on the west by the Jiuling Mountains, and on the east by Poyang Lake, it is famous for its scenery, rich history and cultural sites...

 in Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

 province, where he stayed for three years. In January 1975, he was elected to the Standing Committee of China's legislature, the National People's Congress
National People's Congress
The National People's Congress , abbreviated NPC , is the highest state body and the only legislative house in the People's Republic of China. The National People's Congress is held in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, capital of the People's Republic of China; with 2,987 members, it is the...

.

Criticism of Maoism after Mao


Following the death of Mao in September 1976 and the coup d'etat
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 against the radical Gang of Four
Gang of Four
The Gang of Four was the name given to a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes...

 a month later, Chen became increasingly active in the country's political life. He and General Wang Zhen
Wang Zhen
Wang Zhen was a Chinese political figure and one of the Eight Immortals of the Communist Party of China.-Early years:Like most Chinese communist leaders, Wang was a commander in his early years...

 petitioned Party chairman Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

 to rehabilitate Deng Xiaoping at the March 1977 CPC CC Work Conference, but were turned down. After Deng was rehabilitated later that year, Chen led the attack on the Maoist era at the November-December 1978 CPC CC Work Conference, raising the sensitive "six issues": the purges of Bo Yibo
Bo Yibo
Bo Yibo was a Chinese politician and one of the Eight Immortals of the Communist Party of China....

, Tao Zhu
Tao Zhu
Tao Zhu is a Former Member of the 8th Communist Party of China Politburo Standing Committee.-Biography:He was Secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Committee and Commander of the Guangzhou Military Region....

, Wang Heshou and Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai was a prominent military leader of the Communist Party of China, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese civil war and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army in the Korean War...

; the 1976 Tiananmen Incident
Tiananmen Incident
The Tiananmen Incident took place on April 5, 1976 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. The incident occurred on the traditional day of mourning, the Qingming Festival, after the Nanjing Incident, and was triggered by the death of Premier Zhou Enlai earlier that year...

; and, Kang Sheng
Kang Sheng
Kang Sheng , Communist Party of China official, oversaw the work of the People's Republic of China's security and intelligence apparatus at the height of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. He was a close associate of Mao Zedong and remained at or near the pinnacle of power for decades...

's errors. Chen raised the six issues in order to undermine Hua and his leftist supporters. Chen's intervention tipped the balance in favor of movement toward an open repudiation of the Cultural Revolution and Deng Xiaoping's promotion, in December 1978, to de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 head of the regime. Chen laid the basis for Deng's "reform and opening"
Chinese economic reform
The Chinese economic reform refers to the program of economic reforms called "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" in the People's Republic of China that were started in December 1978 by reformists within the Communist Party of China led by Deng Xiaoping.China had one of the world's largest...

 program.

In July 1979, Chen Yun was named head (and Li Xiannian
Li Xianniàn
Li Xiannian was President of the People's Republic of China between 1983 and 1988 and then chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until his death. He was an influential political figure throughout the PRC, having been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of...

 deputy head) of the new national Economic and Financial Commission staffed with his own allies and conservative economic planners. In April and July of that year he made further provocative statements in internal Party meetings, although their authenticity was denied (in an equivocal manner) by official spokesmen. In these Chen deplored China's lack of economic progress and the people's loss of confidence in the Party. In April he criticized the luxurious life of Party leaders (including himself), and said if he had known in the period before Liberation what the past ten-some years would be like (that is, the Cultural Revolution period), he would have defected to Chiang Kai-shek. He deplored Mao's dictatorial ways and implied, although not very strongly, that the Party should take a milder line against dissidents. If "Lin Biao and the Gang of Four; that is, the radical leftists" had been able to assure the people food and clothing, he said, they would not have been so easy to overthrow.

In July Chen developed these themes in the course of another rambling exposition (which also included some sarcastic observations on the late Chairman's taste in literature). Chen said: "We say the old dynasties and the KMT 'ruled' the country, but talk instead of the 'leadership' of the Communist Party. But the Party is in fact a ruling party, and if it wishes to keep its position it must also keep the support of the people. It should not float above the masses but should live among them as their servants. Both the welfare of the people and the Party's ruling position require that the Party shrink the distance between itself and the people."
The old dynasties, Chen said, knew the value of a "policy of yielding", of retreating from untenable positions. The Party has to be able to step back from its past practices: in economy, culture, education, science, and ideology. Without compromising the basic principle of socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

, Chen believed that the Party must accommodate, for the time being, co-existence with aspects of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

. But all of this, Chen added, must be done carefully: otherwise China would be in danger of abandoning socialism and restoring capitalism. These pronouncements presaged the major reorientation of Chinese communism in the reform movement.

Role in promoting China's economic reform



Deng Xiaoping, is credited as the "architect" of modern China's economic reforms, but Chen Yun contributed much to the strategy adopted by Deng, and Chen was more directly involved in the details of its planning and construction. A key feature of the reform was to use the market to allocate resources, within the scope of an overall plan. The reforms of the early 1980s were, in effect, the implementation, finally, of the program Chen had outlined in the mid-1950s. Chen called this the "birdcage economy". According to Chen, "the cage is the plan, and it may be large or small. But within the cage the bird [the economy] is free to fly as he wishes."

In 1981 a rival "Financial and Economic Leading Group" was established under Zhao Ziyang
Zhao Ziyang
Zhao Ziyang was a high-ranking politician in the People's Republic of China . He was the third Premier of the People's Republic of China from 1980 to 1987, and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1987 to 1989....

 and staffed by a more balanced mix of economic planners. In 1982 Chen Yun, who was 77 years old, resigned from the Politburo and Central Committee and from his active administration positions. He served as Chairman of the new Central Advisory Commission
Central Advisory Commission
Central Advisory Commission of People's Republic of China provided "political assistance and consultation" to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China ....

, a temporary institution set up to provide a place for the surviving leadership of the founding generation, to give them a graceful way to step aside in favor of younger minds while also remaining at least marginally involved in public affairs.

During the 1980s Chen did in fact remain very much involved in policy discussions. He was increasingly disenchanted with the direction the reforms were taking. In 1982 he was among those grumbling about "spiritual pollution" (an "Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign
Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign
The Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign was a Chinese political campaign spanning from October 1983 to December 1983, started by political factions in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party that feared the spreading of Western liberal ideas among the Chinese populace, a product of the then...

" was organised in late 1983), as the sense of freedom spread from economics into China's social cultural, and threatened China's political status quo. Chen's philosophical rupture with Deng Xiaoping became permanent around 1984, when the CCP began to apply the kind of market reforms that had been so successful in agriculture to urban areas and the industrial sector.

Late opponent of reform


Chen was not, in principle, opposed to the scope of Deng's reforms: China's economic policy had effectively frozen consumer prices for decades, to the point that prices in China no longer had much relationship to the relative value of resources, goods, or services. Chen did object to the way in which the urban reforms were carried out. The immediate consequence of Deng's price reform was a sudden and massive inflation, unprecedented in the experience of the younger generation and particularly frightening to older folks who could still remember the rampant inflation in the last years of the Nationalist regime. The increasing circulation of money in the economy, together with a hybrid system in which those in official position or with official connections were particularly well-placed to take advantage of the new opportunities to make a profit, encouraged official corruption. The government's first response to inflation was to issue bonuses to workers in state-owned enterprises, to help make up for the price increases. Chen Yun argued that, if there were to be such bonuses, they should be gauged to increased productivity. In practice these bonuses were universal throughout the state sector, and had the same economic effect as if the government had simply printed more money. Because Chinese farmers were not eligible for bonuses (since they were not technically state employees), China's agricultural sector, which had prospered in the first stage of the reform, was especially damaged by inflation.

Chen's theory had been that the market should supplement the plan. In the context of radical Maoism
Maoism
Maoism, also known as the Mao Zedong Thought , is claimed by Maoists as an anti-Revisionist form of Marxist communist theory, derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong . Developed during the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely applied as the political and military guiding...

 this made him seem like a social democratic proponent of market socialism
Market socialism
Market socialism refers to various economic systems where the means of production are either publicly owned or cooperatively owned and operated for a profit in a market economy. The profit generated by the firms system would be used to directly remunerate employees or would be the source of public...

. It turned out, however, that Chen meant exactly what he had said. He was much less enthusiastic about the market than Deng Xiaoping and Deng's younger colleagues. Although in his "secret" pronouncements of 1979 Chen had shown an unusual personal disdain for Mao, he also indicated he shared the late Chairman's worries that China would abandon socialism and revert to capitalism.

During the 1980s Chen emerged as the main figure among the more hard-line opponents of reform. He supported the vicious campaign in the early 1980s against the "three kinds of people", a general purge of all those who had been identified with radical factions during the Cultural Revolution. He made common cause with conservatives among other Party elders. During the reform era Chen refused to meet with foreigners. Chen never visited the new Special Economic Zones. In a memorial tribute to Li Xiannian
Li Xianniàn
Li Xiannian was President of the People's Republic of China between 1983 and 1988 and then chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until his death. He was an influential political figure throughout the PRC, having been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of...

, an old colleague from the economic system (and, like Chen, one of the few real proletarians among the first generation of Party leaders), Chen stated that he was not necessarily opposed to everything about the Special Economic Zones. While Chen became the moral leader of the conservative opposition to Deng Xiaoping, he did not challenge Deng's personal primacy as head of regime.

Although Zhao Ziyang's promotion of political and economic reform made Zhao one of Chen's main political rivals, Chen was one of the Party elders active in the 1980s who Zhao respected most. in Zhao's autobiography
Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang is a 360-page book in English published in May 2009 containing the memoirs of People's Republic of China's former communist leader who was sacked after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. It is based on a series of about 30 audio...

, Chen was one of the few elders who Zhao referred to regularly as a "comrade". Before implementing new policies, Zhao made a habit of visiting Chen, in order to solicit Chen's advice and attempt to gain Chen's approval. If the event that Zhao failed to gain Chen's approval, Zhao would then normally attempt to fall back on the favor of Deng Xiaoping in order to promote reforms.

In 1989 Chen was among the Party elders responsible for making the key decisions concerning the student-led Tiananmen protests. There is no evidence that Chen indulged in diatribes against the students or actively advocated their violent repression. Chen agreed that Zhao Ziyang should be replaced as the formal head of the Party, and he endorsed Li Xiannian’s nomination of Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin is a former Chinese politician, who served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002, as President of the People's Republic of China from 1993 to 2003, and as Chairman of the Central Military Commission from 1989 to 2005...

 as the new Party General Secretary.

Legacy


Chen Yun was known for his conservatism, especially in his last years, but the general Chinese population held mixed feeling about him. He was admired, despite his political stands, because he was known as one of the extremely few top ranking officials who was not corrupt. Chen's political perspective is generally viewed as liberal until about 1980, but conservative after about 1984.

Chen's criticism of the Deng's economic reforms was influential within the Communist Party, and was reflected in the policies of China's leaders after Deng. Chen's theories supported the efforts of Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin is a former Chinese politician, who served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002, as President of the People's Republic of China from 1993 to 2003, and as Chairman of the Central Military Commission from 1989 to 2005...

 and Hu Jintao
Hu Jintao
Hu Jintao is the current Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China. He has held the titles of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China since 2002, President of the People's Republic of China since 2003, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission since 2004, succeeding Jiang...

 to use state power to provide boundaries for the operation of the market, and to mediate the damage that capitalism can do to those who find it difficult to benefit from the free market. Chen's notion of the CCP as a "ruling party" is central to the redefinition of the role of the Party in Jiang Zemin's Three Represents
Three Represents
The Three Represents is a socio-political ideology credited to General Secretary Jiang Zemin which became a guiding ideology of the Communist Party of China at its Sixteenth Party Congress in 2002....

. In 2005, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Chen's birth, the Party press published, over the course of several weeks, the proceedings of a symposium discussing Chen's contributions to CCP history, theory and practice.

Although Chen was out of favor with the Mao regime and ultimately opposed to Deng's line, Chen was not a victim of public humiliation or abuse. One reason for Chen's ability to escape political persecution, especially in Mao's time, was his lack of will or ability to challenge the top leadership (one of Deng's merits was that he did not subject his defeated critics to public abuse). Whatever the wisdom of his substantive positions, Chen consistently appeared to act on principle rather than for personal advantage: perhaps another reason he could keep his influence even while excluded from the inner circles of decision-making. Chen showed little of the ambition, opportunism, or freedom of scruple that is often observed in those who rise to the top in politics, whether in China or abroad.

His son, Chen Yuan
Chen Yuan
Chen Yuan , born in January 1945, is Governor of the China Development Bank.Chen Yuan graduated with a Master' s degree in Industrial Economics from the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences...

, is Governor of the China Development Bank
China Development Bank
The China Development Bank is a financial institution in the People's Republic of China under the direct jurisdiction of the State Council. It is the only bank in China whose governor is a full minister...

.

Sources

  • Chen Yunzhuan, Biography of Chen Yun, Jin Chongji and Chen Qun
    Chen Qun
    Chen Qun was a minister of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history.Chen Qun initiated the Nine-rank system for civil service nomination in Cao Wei. Following the death of the ruler Cao Pi, Chen Qun became the Guardian of Cao Wei's military forces...

    , Beijing: Central Literature Publishing House, 2005, two volumes,
  • China News Analysis, 1182 (June 6, 1982)
  • Donald W. Klein & Anne B. Clark, Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism, (Cambridge, MASS: Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    , 1971) Vol 1, pp. 149–153.
  • Exupoli. "Bird Cage Economics". Exupoli.net. 2009. Retrieved October 12 2011.
  • Franz Schurmann, Ideology and Organization in Communist China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), pp. 195–208.
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick. "Foreword". In Zhao Ziyang, Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
    Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
    Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang is a 360-page book in English published in May 2009 containing the memoirs of People's Republic of China's former communist leader who was sacked after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. It is based on a series of about 30 audio...

    . New York, NY: Simon and Shuster. 2009. ISBN 1-4391-4938-0.
  • Nicholas R. Lardy and Kenneth Lieberthal
    Kenneth Lieberthal
    Kenneth Lieberthal is an American academic.He is the director of the John L. Thornton China Center and a senior fellow in Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public-policy organization based in Washington, D.C.-Early life and...

    , eds., Chen Yün's Strategy for China's Development: A Non-Maoist Alternative (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1983).
  • Ye Yonglie, 1978: Zhongguo Mingyun Da Zhuanzhe (Canton: Guangzhou Renmin Zhubanshe, 1997), pp. 255–260, 584-595.
  • The Tiananmen Papers, compiled by Zhang Liang
    Zhang Liang
    Zhang Liang , style name Zifang , was a strategist and statesman of the early Han Dynasty. He is also known as one of the "Three Heroes of the early Han Dynasty" , along with Han Xin and Xiao He...

    , edited by Andrew J. Nathan and Perry Link
    Perry Link
    Perry Link is Chancellorial Chair Professor for Innovative TeachingComparative Literature & Foreign Languages in College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at University of California, Riverside and Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University. He specializes in modern...

     (New York: Public Affairs, 2001), p. 308

External links