SPEECH AT THE FIRST PLENARY SESSION OF
THE CENTRAL ADVISORY COMMISSION OF
THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CHINA
September 13, 1982
The Central Advisory Commission is something new. Established in light of the circumstances of the Communist Party of China, it is an organizational form that will enable new cadres to succeed the old ones in the central leading organs of the Party. The purpose of establishing this Commission is to lower the average age of members of the Central Committee and at the same time to make it possible for some elderly comrades who have retired from the forefront of affairs to continue to play a certain role.
In a sense, the Central Advisory Commission is a transitional organization. Both the government and the Party should ultimately establish a system of retirement. Shortly after the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, we began to stress the need to abolish the de facto system of life tenure in leading Party and government posts. I am afraid that many countries in the world are more successful in solving this problem than we are. The problem of the aging of our cadres, if not critical, is at least very serious. If this problem is not solved, our government and our Party will have no vitality. Now we have begun to solve it. A transitional measure, like establishing the Central Advisory Commission, conforms to our actual conditions, is appropriate and will be implemented smoothly. I think we can say that this is a great step forward in our efforts to ensure that the old are succeeded by the young. If, through this transitional measure, the problem is solved smoothly and by the end of two five-year periods a retirement system is established, that will be a great victory for us. It will be a good thing for the development of our country. We can therefore expect that the Central Advisory Commission will be abolished in 10 or at most 15 years. It may need to exist for ten years or two terms. I’m afraid it would not be appropriate for it to serve only one term; that would be too short a time. Today the Central Advisory Commission has only just been established, and I am already saying that it is going to be abolished. That makes it clear that the organization is only transitional. We respect the dialectics of life and history.
How is the Central Advisory Commission to go about its work? Generally speaking, it should act in accordance with the provisions of the new Party Constitution. According to the Constitution, the members of the Commission are to act as political assistants and consultants to the Central Committee. They may attend plenary sessions of the Central Committee as observers. The vice-chairmen of the Commission may attend meetings of the Political Bureau as observers and, when the Political Bureau deems it necessary, other members of the Standing Committee of the Commission may do so too. That is to say, in the activities of the Party, the vice-chairmen of the Central Advisory Commission and the members of its Standing Committee have the same status as members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee.
The Party Constitution also stipulates that the Central Advisory Commission, working under the leadership of the Central Committee, has four major tasks. These are as follows: 1) to put forward suggestions on the formulation and implementation of the Party’s principles and policies and give advice upon request; 2) to assist the Central Committee in investigating and handling certain important questions; 3) to propagate the Party’s major principles and policies both inside and outside the Party; and 4) to undertake such other tasks as may be entrusted to it by the Central Committee. In principle, these are our tasks; the problem is how to carry them out. There are a few things we have to sort out, including the establishment of a working body. I propose that we should not have a large body but a simple one with just a few people. I should like to put Comrade Bo Yibo in charge of the day-to-day work of the Central Advisory Commission, so as to reduce my workload.
As all of us are veteran comrades, I’ll come straight to the point. First, the Central Advisory Commission has to be careful not to hinder the work of the Central Committee. We have to be strict about this, because we are senior leaders and, indeed, have more prestige than the members of the current Central Committee. In the future, the Central Committee will have younger and younger members, so they will be even more junior to us. If we take a correct attitude, we shall help them in their work. If we act inappropriately, we may have a bad effect.
Just as we should not hinder the work of the Central Committee, including the Political Bureau and the Secretariat, neither should we hinder the work of the organizations at lower levels. For example, when we go on a fact-finding tour in a certain province, I think we should not offer opinions casually. We should first investigate the conditions and study the experience of the local people. If we think there is a problem, we should help the provincial Party committee or the grass-roots organization concerned but allow them to solve it themselves. We should pass our experience on to them, help them and guide them, but not order them about. As we enjoy seniority, our words will be listened to and will carry weight. So we have to be careful what we say. We should pay attention to this from the very beginning. Not long ago Comrade Zhang Yun worked in Fujian Province for more than two months. She did a good job there.
Second, members of the Central Advisory Commission should keep in touch with the masses. Perhaps all comrades, except those in poor health — all of us who can still do some work — could choose a grass-roots unit such as a factory, a school, a scientific research institution, a prefectural or county Party committee or even a village Party branch in the countryside and try to find out how things are there. In this way, we shall be better able to help the Central Committee as consultants and assistants. In the unit we have chosen we can also make reports and meet with the masses and Party members, keeping them informed about state affairs, about the principles and policies adopted by the Party at every stage and about the international situation and our foreign policy. Making reports is in itself a way of passing our experience on and of helping and guiding people. We can tell them about current issues as well as historical events. We are qualified to talk about historical events, because we have been working for the revolution for dozens of years and have many stories to tell.
Third, still another role for us to play is to set an example of the Party’s fine style of work. If we want to promote ethical progress, it is crucial for us to set an example. When we veteran comrades go down to a grass-roots unit, the people there will respect us. They will take care of everything for us, and we should try not to give them too much trouble.
In short, how the Central Advisory Commission should do its work and what role it should play are new questions. I am sure that we veteran comrades will be able to handle them well.
(A few days earlier the Twelfth National Congress of the CPC had established a Central Advisory Commission and elected its members. The Twelfth Central Committee of the Party, at its First Plenary Session held on September 12, had elected Deng Xiaoping to its Political Bureau and to the Bureau’s Standing Committee and appointed him Chairman of the Central Military Commission. At the First Plenary Session of the Central Advisory Commission, he was also elected Chairman of that body.)