Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee
The Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee (Chinese: 十一届三中全会) was a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held in Beijing, China, from December 18 to December 22, 1978. It marked the beginning of the "Reform and Opening Up" policy, and is widely seen as the moment when Deng Xiaoping became paramount leader of China replacing Hua Guofeng, who remained nominal Chairman of the Communist Party of China until 1981.
Before the plenum, demands for a repudiation of the Cultural Revolution increased, especially by those who were persecuted during Mao Zedong's last year. In October 1976, the radical Gang of Four led by Mao's widow Jiang Qing was arrested, and Deng Xiaoping himself—Mao's chief rival from 1975 to 1976—was officially rehabilitated in 1977.
Although Hua Guofeng, who succeeded "the great helmsman" in 1976, tried to carry on the Maoist rhetoric and to gain an authority like that of Mao's, he also allowed the rehabilitation of many of Deng's allies, who then revolted against him calling for economic reform. During the 1978 working conference held in November, preparing the plenum, Chen Yun raised the "six issues"—Bo Yibo, Tao Zhu, Wang Heshou and Peng Dehuai; the 1976 Tiananmen Incident; and Kang Sheng’s errors—to undermine the leftists. At the same conference, Deng said it was necessary to go over ideological barriers.
Trying to distance from the Cultural Revolution practice which put politics before economy, the Third Plenary Session argued that extensive criticism campaigns against Lin Biao and the Gang of Four were to be abandoned in favour of a greater attention to economics. The "four modernizations" of industry, agriculture, national defence and science-technology were considered the Party's key tasks for the new period. Former President Liu Shaoqi's theory that under socialism, mass class struggle came to an end, and it was necessary to develop relations of production in order to follow the growth of social forces, was openly endorsed, while Mao's theory of continued revolution under socialism was abandoned. Changes in economic management were called for.
The new slogan was to "make China a modern, powerful socialist country before the end of this century".
Although it did not take any open resolution against Mao, the Plenary Session attacked his leadership, implying that it did not guarantee full democracy or collective leadership. Particularly, it criticized the use of issuing Mao's "instructions", as it was said that "No personal view by a Party member in a position of responsibility, including leading comrades of the Central Committee, is to be called an 'instruction.'" It also put an end to the extensive personality cult towards Mao and Hua, avoiding them from being called "Chairman Mao" and "Chairman Hua".
Putting forward the "Seeking truth from facts" principle, the plenum started the repudiation of the Cultural Revolution: the "oppose the Right-deviationist wind to reverse correct verdicts" campaign aimed against Deng was openly rejected, and Peng Dehuai, Tao Zhu, Bo Yibo and Yang Shangkun were rehabilitated. The Cultural Revolution was openly rejected only in 1981 at the Sixth Plenary Session. The weakness of the National People's Congress and the Supreme People's Court during this period was criticized as well.
Despite its great relevance in advancing Deng Xiaoping's ideas and leadership, during the Third Plenary Session no critical or substantial reshuffle occurred, as opposed to the Sixth Plenary Session held in 1981 when Hua Guofeng was removed from his posts. Important additions were made, however.
Chen Yun was appointed Politburo Standing Committee member, as well as Party Vice-Chairman and First Secretary of the newly created Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Deng Yingchao, Hu Yaobang and Wang Zhen were all made new Politburo members, and they were given important posts in the Discipline Inspection Commission.
- (Chinese) Communique of the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China