Opinion: Why is Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 Southern Inspection Tour still relevant today?
Guest commentary by Victor Zhikai Gao
In January and February 1992, at age of 88, and as a retired person still held in high esteem, Deng Xiaoping toured Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Shanghai and made a series of comments and remarks about China’s reform and opening to the world.  
Unhappy about the speed and the overall direction of reform at that time, Deng was concerned that the top Chinese leaders might not be using the correct litmus test for the reform China needed at time. 
Deng proclaimed that “Development is the hard truth!” He sharply warned that “Those who do not promote reform should be brought down from their leadership positions!”  Deng urged for more reform. When his daughter pointed at a tree with magnificent branches and said that the local people called this tree “Rich Fortune Tree”, Deng told people around him: Rich Fortune Tree is good. Let everyone make Rich Fortune. Deng knew he did not have much time for this world. He knew that China did not have much time to idle.
Deng Xiaoping. /CCTV Photo

Deng Xiaoping. /CCTV Photo

Deng’s Southern Inspection Tour in 1992 created a new tsunami for China’s reform and opening up, clarifying once and for all that development and only development could save China. Development was the hard truth! 
In 1992, Deng not only repositioned Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta Region in general for more audacious reform opening to the world, he also personally pushed for the opening of Shanghai, especially the Pudong area. 
Opened in the immediate aftermath of Deng’s Southern Inspection Tour in 1992, Pudong now has become a shining beacon of great economic and financial success of Shanghai and China. Drawing inspiration from Deng’s proclamations during the tour, people in the other parts of China were also galvanized for reform and opening to the world. 
Panorama of Shanghai. /VCG Photo

Panorama of Shanghai. /VCG Photo

Ever since the 1992 Southern Inspection Tour, Chinese officials and the Chinese people never wavered in their commitment to constant and continuous reform and irreversible opening to the world. Only development could save China, and only greater integration with the rest of the world could make China thrive and flourish.
Twenty-six years later, the world has changed profoundly. China is now the second largest economy in the world and the champion for free trade and market economy (with Chinese characteristics, of course). 
President Trump is basically following his own instinct and turning the United States backward, allowing protectionism and populism to raise their dangerous heads. 
Brexit is still generating pain and suffering and the UK and EU are still facing tremendous uncertainty and potential upheaval. 
Japan is still drifting around without a wise and clear-cut roadmap for growth. Major emerging markets are confronting new challenges and need to rethink about their growth strategy. Against this background of great uncertainty in the world, China, the new Chinese leadership led by President Xi Jinping, and the Chinese people are still basking in the wisdom, vision and courage of Deng. 
Xi Jinping delivering a report to the 19th CPC National Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. /CGTN Photo

Xi Jinping delivering a report to the 19th CPC National Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. /CGTN Photo

President Xi has significantly added to the “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” as proposed by Deng and has come up with the Xi Jinping Thought of the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. China still reveres development as the hard truth, though, as I mentioned in an article published several years ago, that, if he were still with us today, Deng would most likely say that “Development is the hard truth, the soft truth, and the smart truth!”
Indeed, by extrapolating Deng’s wisdom, vision and courage as amply demonstrated in his 1992 Southern Inspection Tour, we have confidence in proclaiming that development is the hard truth, the soft truth and the smart truth. There will be no brighter future without development. Development should be inclusive, leaving no one out or behind. Development should be promoted on the global scale and no country could thrive and flourish behind self-erected walls.
Deng used to proudly and modestly call himself as “a son of the Chinese people”. I think it is time for the world to call Deng as “a son of Mankind”.
(Victor Zhikai Gao is a former English interpreter for Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s and chairman of China Energy Security Institute. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.)