255. Intelligence Assessment Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

PA 79–10314

Deng Xiaoping and China’s Leadership: Making More Room at the Top

Key Judgments

The era of Deng Xiaoping’s remarkable personal dominance in the Chinese leadership seems to be drawing to a close.

• He has been under more severe criticism than at any time since his return to power two years ago and is in the unaccustomed position of having others impose limits on his range of activities.

• In addition to overreaching himself on some highly contentious policies, he apparently is being held accountable for pushing some policies that have turned out badly and others on which the verdict is still out.

• He is sharing the limelight with some highly respected officials who are playing a greater role because of their superior ability in specialized fields and with others who have just returned from political limbo and are popular favorites.

Deng is by no means in danger of being toppled or reduced to an honorary elder.

• He has slipped from an extraordinary position that at times was reminiscent of Mao’s in terms of personal power, but retains enough influence to outstrip most of his colleagues.

• By forcing a significant turnaround in the propaganda line, which now gives greater play to his anti-ideological brand of decisionmaking, he has partially recouped the political losses he suffered earlier.

There is now, however, a wider array of forces that could line up against Deng, and together they are strong enough to share power with him.

• His potential opposition does not come merely from Maoist ideologues, people who personally dislike him, or those jealous of his [Page 905] power, but from a variety of quarters with a constituency that shifts with the issues involved.

• Those with whom he shares power seem more opposed to the excesses of his policies than to the policies themselves and are likely to support modified versions that could prove more durable than Deng’s extremist initiatives.

[Omitted here is the body of the paper.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 9, China (PRC): 6–7/79. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. Prepared in the Office of Political Analysis in coordination with the National Intelligence Officer for China and the Office of Scientific Intelligence. Research for the report was completed on July 12.