Oriana Fallaci: Let's speak about your opening to the capitalistic West. I mean the economic opening that you need to realize your four modernizations program. As it will bring to China foreign capital, isn't it legitimate to suspect that it will provoke a certain spreading of private property, thus the dawn of a miniaturized capitalism?
Deng Xiaoping: Let's start with pointing out that, in the final analysis, the principle of our national construction is the same which was formulated by Chairman Mao. While taking international assistance, we'll mainly rely on our own efforts. That is, no matter how we will open to the West, no matter how we will use the foreign captial, and whatever the proportion of the private investment will be, this will cover only a small percentage of the Chinese ecomony. It will by no means affect the socialist public ownership of the means of production. Even the fact that foreigners might build factories in China will play only a complementary role. A subsidary role. Then of course, there will be some decadent influence of capitalism brought into China. We are aware of this, but I think that it is not so terrible and we are not afraid of it.
Q: Do you mean that capitalism isn't so bad after all?
A.: It depends on how you define capitalism. Anyway, capitalism is superior to feudlism, and we cannot say that everything which has been developed in the capitalistic countries is of capitalistic nature. For instance, technology, science, and even economic managament, which is a sort of science, are useful for any country. We intend to learn all that for serving our socialist construction.
Q.: Yet, years ago, when you became aware that the Great Leap Forward had been a failure, you acknowledged that man needs some personal interest to produce. I would say, to exist. Doesn't this mean to put in discussion communism itself?
A.: According to Marx, socialism is the first stage to communism, and a very long historical period. In this stage we should still apply the principle of "from each one according to his ability, to each one according to his work." We should combine the interest of the individuals with those of the country. Only in this way shall we be able to mobilize in the masses the enthusiasm for production. Well, as long as it helps the development of our productive forces and our efforts to lift ourselves from backwardness and poverty, the help of the capitalistic West will be beneficial to our country.
So I think that the advantages we will gain will far exceed the bad effects that might be brought with them.
Q.: "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it eats the mice" you once said. Mr. Deng, will you apply such pragmatism, such tolerance, to the political life, too? I ask this because I recall an answer you gave in America: "In China we will have to wipe out dictatorship and enlarge democracy." Or something like that. What democracy were you speaking about? The one which is based on free elections and party-pluralism?
A.: I never gave such answer! Never! It must have been a misunderstanding. However, I can tell you that after the overthrow of the Gang of Four we emphasized very much the promotion of the socialist democracy. Without giving up, of course, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat are the two aspects of one antithesis, and I should add that proletarian democracy is far superior to capitalistic democracy. So we are now stressing the importance of the four major principals: socialism, dictatorship of the proleariat, Marxism and Leninism, elaborated by the Mao Tse-tung thought, and the leadership of the Communist Party of China. And this means that the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat remains untouched.
Q.: Now I understand why in Tienanmen Square, just facing the portrait of Mao, there are still the portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin!
A.: Well, before the Cultural Revolution, those portraits were put out only on important occasions. Yes, this was the practice. And it changed during the Cultural Revolution, when they decided that the portraits should stay there all the time. But we intend to go back to the old practice.
Q.: I see. But, important occasions or not, do you have to put out Stalin also?
A.: We think that Stalin's merits and contributions to the revolution exceed his mistakes. Using our Chinese habit, the grades for Stalin are 30 percent for his mistakes and 70 percent for his merits. Also Chairman Mao used to say so and, after the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, the Chinese Communist Party expressed a very clear evaluation of Stalin. In fact, we said that we would always regard Stalin's works as classical works in the international communist movement. You know, we are also aware of the mistakes committed by Stalin toward the Chinese revolution. When, after the Second World War, there was a rupture between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang and we engaged in the liberation of war, Stalin was against us. Yet, not even this ever changed our views of him.
A.: And Khrushchev?
A.: Khrushchev? What good things did Khrushchev do?
Q.: He denounced Stalin.
A.: So you think that this was a good thing he did?
Q.: More than good. I would say holy. For Christ's sake, more people were killed by Stalin than by the whole of the Cultural Revolution put together!
A.: I am not sure about that. Not sure at all. Anyhow it's impossible to make such a comparison.
Q.: So you prefer Stalin to Khrushchev in any sense?
A.: but if I just told you that we shall never do to Chairman Mao what Khrushchev did to Stalin!
Q.: And what about if I answer that in the West you are called the Chinese Khrushchev?
A.: (He laughs very loud). Listen, in the West they may call me as they like, but I knew Khrushchev very well, I had to deal with him for 10 years, personally, and I tell you that comparing me to Khrushchev is a stupidity. Khrushchev only did bad things to the Chinese, Stalin instead did something good for us. Shortly after our People's Republic was founded, Stalin helped us sincerely in establishing or modernizing the industrial complexes which would serve as the basis of Chinese economy. Of course, such helps were not offered free, we had to pay for them, but, when Khrushchev came to power, everything changed. Krushchev tore up all the agreements between China and the Soviet Union, all the contracts that had been signed during Stalin's time. Hundreds of contracts Oh, this discussion is impossible! Let's do so: You keep your view, I keep mine, and we stop talking about Khrushchev.
Q.: Mr. Deng, can you say that the international communist movement shines for internationalism?
A.: Well, it is also important that no party of any country acts in a patriarchical way, that no party considers itself as the center of the communist movement. There is no center, there is no boss. And the Soviet Communist Party no longer is the party which was led by Lenin. We consider the Soviet Union as an imperialist country, a social-imperialist country, and since the Soviet Communist Party is the party which leads that imperialist country, it's quite questionable whether that party really is a communist party.
Q.: Yes, but I meant that today in the world the only armed conflicts are those which take place among commmunist countries. Arabs apart, on the other side of the barricade there isn't one single country which hates another country as the connumist ones hate each other. Soviet Union against China and vice versa, China against Vietnam and vice versa.
A.: Do you want to talk about Vietnam? Then listen: Judging from a global strategic point of view, the Vietnamese are following the footsteps of the Soviet Union. As I always repeat, they have become the Cuba of the East. Isn't it enough demonstrated by their occupation of Laos and Cambodia? Isn't it enough to ask: What sort of country is that? We Chinese do not find the slightest reason why Vietnam should turn against China as it has. In its long struggle for national independence, Vietnam received so many aids from China. Selfless aids. We have never done a thing to let them down, nor have we ever interfered in their national affairs. Do you know the amount of help we gave to the Vietnamese in those years? Twenty billion dollars. For a country as poor as China, it is much.
Q.: Yes, but then you killed each other in a conflict which was a small war.
A.: True. Against the Vietnamese we launched a counterattack in self-defense. But, as we look back, we must say that it wasn't very effective, as many countries did not favor our action. We restrained ourselves. But what happened shows all the same how determined we are to spank the buttons of the tiger. And we reserve our right to give them another lesson.
Q.: This is one of the traumas of our times, Mr. Deng. Because we all cried for Vietnam, we all fought against the war in Vietnam, and now someone asks himself: Were we wrong?
A.: No, no! We were not wrong. We Chinese never regret to have been on their side. It was right to help them, and we will do it again each time a country struggles against a foreign invasion. But today the situation in Vietnam is reversed. And with that reversed situation we have to deal.
Q.: Yes, but a reproach must be moved to the Chinese, too, Mr. Deng. How can you be on the side of Pol Pot?
A.: Well, we look the reality square in its face. Who liberated Cambodia? Who drove the Americans as well as the Lon Nol regime away from Cambodia? Wasn't it the Cambodian Communist Party led by Pol Pot? Prince Sihanouk had no force, he had been dethroned by his own people. Nevertheless, we continued to give him support and we welcomed him as our guest in Peking in exile. But within Cambodia it was not Sihanouk who fought, it was the people's force led by the Cambodian Communist Party of Pol Pot. It was Pol Pot who won, and almost without any foreign help. Because most of the Chinese aids to Cambodia were confiscated by the Vietnamese, did you know it? China has no frontier with Cambodia, so our assistance had to go through Vietnam and here it was taken away by the Vietnamese. It never reached Cambodia. Never.
Q.: But Pol Pot . . . .
A.: Yes, I know what you want to say. Yes, it's true that after taking power Pol Pot and his government committed serious mistakes. We are aware of it. We were aware of it also at that time and, looking back, we think that perhaps we did wrong in not pointing out those mistakes to Pol Pot. We said this to Pol Pot, also. The fact is that our practice has always been to avoid remarks on the affairs of other parties or countries, because we don't want to give the impression that China imposes herself. Anyhow, today the question to put is the following one: Who fights the Vietnamese? Prince Sihanouk has no force at all, the small groups like the groups of Son Sann are too small and so they cannot carry out any serious resistance. The only force which really fights is the one of Pol Pot and in fact it is Pol Pot that the people follow.
Q.: I don't believe it, Mr. Deng. How could it be possible that the Cambodians follow the man who massacred them and destroyed them with terror? You speak of mistakes, but a genocide is not a mistake. And this is what Pol Pot did: a genocide. One million people were exterminated by him.
A.: Your figure is not reliable at all. One million out of four or five million? Nonsense. You don't believe that Cambodian people follow Pol Pot and I don't believe that Pol Pot killed a million. He killed some people, true. A relatively large number, true. He also offended the people by moving city dwellers away from the cities, true. But, again, who is fighting today? Who gets the support of the masses as I affirm, today? Whose forces grow stronger today? Opposing Pol Pot or trying to disintegrate him only serves the Vietnamese. Uhm, there are people in the world who do not respect reality. They don't even permit Pol Pot to correct his mistakes.
Q: I am afraid to be among the people who don't respect reality, Mr. Deng. In fact, in order to believe that Pol Pot really wants to correct his mistakes, I would ask him to resurrect all the human beings he murdered. And I add: I understand your realism, Mr. Deng, but how do you have rapport with such people? Nor do I think only of Pol Pot when I say so. When Franco died, the first flowers to arrive for his coffin were the flowers of the Chinese. And they were signed by Chou En-lai.
A: Well, when we sent those flowers for the funeral of Franco . . . Listen, what we had in mind, it was not Franco, it was the Spanish people, our wish to improve governmental rapport with the Spanish. Our views on certain individuals should not affect our actions. As for Franco, we have not changed our historical judgment of him, I promise you. And the same for the emperor of Japan, yet we have good relations with Japan. The fact is that we cannot project the past problems into the present reality.
Q: Pinochet isn't the past, Mr. Deng, he is the present. The Argentinean dictators aren't the past, they are the present. Yet you deal with Pinochet and with the Argentinean dictators, just to make an example.
A: The case of Argentina is different. Argentina is under a military rule. We deal with Argentina as a country, we always handle these matters in the interest of our relations with a country and a people. Yes, this is our principle. As for Chile, listen. I know that many progressive friends don't understand our attitude toward Chile but, speaking candidly, I can tell you that we did good things there. Now let me explain better. Allende was a friend of China, we still cherish his memory. He was a friend even though he let himself be influenced by the Soviet Union. In fact, Premier Chou En-lai gave him sincere advice: Not to follow the Soviet Union in whatever she said, not to adopt an ultra-left policy, otherwise he would find himself isolated. Well, when Allende was killed and the democratic forces of Chile got into great difficulties, we studied the question whether we should maintain an embassy there or cut off our relations. Then we thought that we should stay. When we look at certain delicate and complex problems we should be farsighted, see, and take a long-term point of view, and consider the overall interests. We should be very cautious, very prudent. And though the choices I spoke of were taken by Chairman Mao and Premier Chou En-lai, not by me, I believe that the approach was right. Look, you are a writer, you are a journalist, you can freely express your views on international affairs and make the choices you like. But when it comes to leading a country, it is quite a different matter.
Q: Here is what I call a convincing answer, Mr. Deng. I now can face the last subject: the third world war. Or, better, what you Chinese define "the inevitability of the third world war."
A: The war is inevitable because the super powers exist and because their imperialism exists. And the inevitability of war isn't just a view of the Chinese: Many people in the world are convinced that the war will break out in the '80s. The next 10 years are very, very dangerous. They are frightful. We should never forget this fact, because only if we don't forget this fact may we adopt measures and policies to postpone the outbreak. But when I say measures and policies I don't mean the chatters about peace and detente. It is since the end of the Second World War that the people in the West keep talking about peace and detente, and so does the Soviet Union. But where is the peace, where is the detente? Year by year, if not day by day, the hot spots increase, the factors which will drive to the third world war, and those people go on chatting about peace and detente.
Q: The fact is that the most of the people don't believe or don't want to believe that the war will break out. In Europe especially.
A: They deceive themselves with hoping that the war might be avoided. And so they shut their eyes, they swallow the toad. Which is one of the elements driving to the war. This blindness, this submissivenes, this suppleness. Before the Second World War it became famous with a word: "Appeasement." It was when Chamberlain and Daladier advocated appeasement toward Hitler. Today some countries in Europe and also in other parts of the world behave exactly like Chamberlain and Daladier at the end of the '30s. But what did their expectation turn out to be ? Did their appeasement put the war off or did it move the war forward? This new appeasement only serves to weaken more and more the West, Europe. The Soviets know it, and because of this they encourage it. Because of this they become more and more arrogant.
Q: Are you saying that Schmidt and Giscard d'Estaing are unawarely playing the game of the Soviet Union?
A: I am saying that certain people are not aware of the danger. I am saying that the methods adopted by certain people are not wise. I am saying that certain people want to take chances. And this is not wise. When tackling problems such as Vietnam, for instance, the Chinese do not behave like that. They proceed not in the interest of China alone but, and more important, having in mind the global strategic interests.
Q: Mr. Deng, in your opinion what are the hot spots which could light up the war today?
A: I could answer the Middle East, first, and then Indochina. But the dangerous areas are many more. They are almost anywhere and it isn't easy to predict where the war will break out. It is very easy, instead, to say who will light up the fire. You see, for years the Chinese have been repeating that only two countries in the world are capable of launching a war: the United States and the Soviet Union. But after the Second World War, I mean after the war in Korea and the war in Vietnam, the forces of the United States have heavily declined and the United States has been retreating. Now America is on the defensive and let's face it: America fears the Soviet Union. As if this were not enough, with the political system they have, it isn't easy for the Americans to take immediate decisions. sThe Soviet Union instead is now on the offensive and it can take immediate decisions very quickly indeed: They only have to assemble a few members of the political bureau -- wasn't the invasion of Afghanistan decided by a few members of the Politburo? Anyhow, look: The focal point of the Soviet strategy is Europe, it remains Europe. And this reality will not change.
Q: So the war could break out in Europe? Is it this that you mean?
A: No, not necessarily in Europe; for Europe. I say that the war will break out for Europe. Because the strong political influence stays in Europe, because the military force stays in Europe, and all this is necessary to dominate the world. Not even if they occupy China, not even if they occupy the rest of the world, can the Soviets achieve the hegemony of the world. To achieve that, they need to occupy Europe. But, of course, when I affirm that the focal point of the Soviet strategy is Europe, I also mean the Middle East and the northern coast of Africa, in sum, the Mediterranean.
Q: Isn't the Persian Gulf among the hot spots?
A: But even the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, its southward drive into the Indian Ocean, belongs to the Soviet strategy to hit Europe, to outflank Europe! This, though such strategy has some connection with the strategy in Indochina. It's obvious that, through the invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union wants to reach the Indian Ocean to obtain control of the Middle East. And when this plan is completed, Europe will face its critical moment. Because, once the Soviets control the oil sources, what will Europe do?
When the former premier of Great Britain, Mr. Callaghan, visited China, I discussed these facts with him. And I told him that the critical moment would come for Europe when the Soviets had the oil resources of the Middle East. I put to him this question: "Mr. Callaghan, what will you do when the Soviet Union succeeds in its southward drive into the Indian Ocean and gets control of the Persian Gulf, of the Middle East? Because, at that time, you will only have two choices. One will be to go down on your knees or to accept Finlandization, which would be the most honorable concession, and one will be to fight." And Callaghan answered: "There could be only one choice."
He did not tell me what choice: but I understood and I said to him: "Then you better make that choice now, at once." Because choosing now means to place the frontline in Afghanistan and in Cambodia. . . . See that I mention Cambodia again, do you understand now what I meant when I spoke about Cambodia and Pol Pot? In fact, these are the two places where we must try very hard to tie down the Soviet Union for several years: Afghanistan and Cambodia. If we do so, the war is postponed.
Q: And then? If the war is inevitable, delaying does not change much.
A.: Then . . . We will see. In some year, things could even get better. The important thing is to postpone, to gain time.
Q.: And Iran? Some say that the invasion of Afghanistan is a sort of rehearsal to invade Iran, sooner or later.
A: I am sure that the Soviet Union will not stop in Afghanistan. The next target can only be Iran or Pakistan. We cannot predict what country will be chosen first, but I think that we should pay more attention to Iran.
Q: And don't you think that the drama of the American hostages, the chaos in which Iran is downing, the madness of Khomeini and his followers, I mean, what has happened in the country in the last 10 months, does it favor the Soviet Union?
A: Listen, I don't fully understand what happens there. I can only say that it is a trouble spot. Let us not forget that the Soviet Union has a considerable influence over there, a very considerable influence. In fact, we still maintain an embassy in Iran. Whatever the situation in Iran, it will be good to keep the Chinese Embassy in Tehran. It will turn out to be very useful. Which is why we want to maintain as good relations as possible with Iran.
Q: Also the Americans kept an embassy there.
A.: The Americans are totally incapable of doing anything in Iran. But I am not talking about Iran only, see, I am talking about the inevitability of war. I am saying that we must not neglect the danger that war will break out. I am saying that the war will burst, sooner or later. And whoever believes the contrary makes a tragic mistake. Then! Already Chairman Mao and Premier Chou En-lai kept repeating this to our foreigner friends! The Soviet Union speaks every day about the SALT agreements, but in the meantime it continues to increase its armaments. Its amount of atomic bombs and nuclear weapons is unbelievable now, and the conventional weapons pile up in their warehouses. These, things are not food, nor shoes, nor clothes: sooner or later they will be used.
Q.: This drives me to an observation, Mr. Deng. The Chinese always say to be ready to make war against the Soviet Union; they always say that they are not afraid of the Soviet Union, but how can you think to compete with the tremendous efficiency of the Soviet war machine?
A: (He laughs) Listen, China is poor and our military equipment is very backward, but we have our traditions. For a long time we summed up the experience for defeating enemies with advanced weapons, and this in spite of our poor equipment. Our territory is very vast, our people have learned to have the endurance to carry on a long war, to defeat strength with weakness. Anyone who wants to invade China must consider this fact and I think that the Soviet Union is aware of it. Many people in the world are predicting that the first target of the Soviet Union will be China, and some friends show us information of the forces that the Soviets go on concentrating in the areas near China. But we answer them that this has never been a secret for us, and that invading China is a major step for the Soviet Union. Even if the Soviets occupy Peking and the areas north of the Yellow River, for us it would only mean the beginning of the war. When it comes to China, one should not turn the superiority of the Soviet military forces into a myth. The Afghan guerrillas are still very active, you know? And in China we have enough people, enough places, to cope with a Soviet invasion.
Q: I understand what you mean by tradition, Mr. Deng. You mean the art of moving the little finger and sweetly murmuring: "Come in, darling, come in! Make yourself comfortable, and you'll see what happens after. Who will find you anymore?"
A: (He laughs loudly). Listen, I am a layman in other fields, for instance in economics. But I know something about fighting.
Q: The point is that probably there would not be time to fight, Mr. Deng. Because the war with China means world war, the world war means nuclear war, and the nuclear war means the end of everything.
A: I agree on the first part: If the Soviet Union invades us, it will not be just a local war. But I don't agree with the rest: Precisely because both sides have so many nuclear weapons, the possibility exists that the third world war will be a conventional war, not a nuclear war.
Q: Some Americans say the same. And speaking of the Americans, tell me: Did you prefer to deal with Nixon or do you feel more at your ease with Carter? And, should Reagan win the election, do you think that it would be the end of the Sino-American relations?
A: Well. . . . Of course Nixon did good things with us, but during the Carter administration there has been some progress in the relations between China and the United States. The trouble is that we are not very satisfied with it. I mean, I too liked that trip to the United States, but warming up for a period does not mean much. The friendship between countries must be manifested in many other specific ways. See, we follow with great interest the behavior of the American leaders toward China but it's so hard to predict what kind of policy the United States will adopt in the future. . . .
For what concerns the second part of your question, I mean a possible victory of Reagan, listen: I don't know, but what Reagan says and has said until now is far from being good, so I don't see many reasons to feel optimistic.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Deng. I have finished. Mr. Deng, just let me put a very last question: What grades would you give to yourself?
A: Well, I too have made mistakes, as I told you. At times, serious mistakes. But I never made them with evil purposes, I always made them with good intentions. So, looking back at my whole life, I don't find a reason to feel a guilty conscience. Look, I guess that I could give to myself 50 percent. Yes, 50 percent would be okay.