The Four Cardinal Principles (Chinese: 四项基本原则, pinyin: sì xiàng jīběn yuánzé) were stated by Deng Xiaoping in 1979 and are the four issues for which debate was not allowed within the People's Republic of China. These are:
- the principle of upholding the socialist path
- the principle of upholding the people's democratic dictatorship
- the principle of upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and
- the principle of upholding Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought
The four cardinal principles actually marked a relaxation of control over ideology. In stating the four cardinal principles, the implication was that these four topics could not be questioned, but political ideas other than those in the list could be debated. Moreover, while the principles themselves are not subject to debate, the interpretation of those principles are. There has for example, been extensive debate over the meaning of socialism.
On the other hand, the Principles were proclaimed as a sign of adherence to the communist ideology, thus paving the secure way to reevaluation of the Cultural Revolution while preserving ideological stability and legitimacy of the CCP, as a response to the Democracy Wall movement.
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