The remarks by Deng Pufang, the eldest son of Deng Xiaoping, are seen as a counter-argument to President Xi's assertive foreign policy and focus on military expansion.
"We must seek truth from fact, keep a sober mind and know our own place," said 74-year-old Deng in a recent speech that was obtained by the South China Morning Post.
“We should neither be overbearing or belittle ourselves," he said.
Deng urged China to embrace a “cooperative and win-win international environment”.
“International uncertainties are on a rise. We should stick to the direction of peace and development, and try to earn a cooperative and win-win international environment,” he said in an apparent reference to the current trade war with US amid the continued slowdown of Chinese economy and emerging military confrontation in the disputed South China Sea.
"The most important thing at the moment is to properly address China's own issues," he said.
Deng's father is regarded as the father of the country's reform and opening-up policy shedding the hard-line Communist policies pursued by Mao Zedong.
He succeeded Mao after the death of the founder of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and put China on aggressive path of economic reforms enabling it to emerge as the world's second largest economy next only to the US.
He had also advocated China to follow a low-key approach to global affairs. His famous quote that China should disguise its “ambitions and hide its claws” has formed part of the CPC's political philosophy.
Deng, who suffered partial paralysis 50 years ago when he jumped from the third floor of a building in Beijing to escape from an attack on him and his family during cultural revolution, made the remarks in his speech last month when he was re-elected as the honorary chair of China's Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF).
The Federation is a semi-official association and Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders of the CPC attended its annual inaugural meeting two days before Xi made the speech which was not reported in the official media.
“The reform and opening-up policy brought about earth-shaking changes to China – comprehensive changes in politics, economy, society and culture,” Deng said.
He went on to say that China should remain on the same path for a century and not go backward.
“We should … continue down this path...bite the bullet, make no regression and remain unwavering for a hundred years,” he said.
Deng is well known throughout China, and is considered highly influential among the sons and daughters of Communist China's first generation of revolutionaries, who are closely connected to the country's political elites.
Xi himself is a son of a first generation revolutionary
Deng's father's approach of "hide your edge and nurture your strength", which means behaving humbly and never taking the lead in world affairs became intensive public debate as China under Xi's leadership adopted a more assertive foreign policy in recent years leading to apprehensions over the rise of China and its efforts to play dominant role in the regional and global affairs.
Deng also sharply criticised Mao's cultural revolution which resulted in millions of deaths.
“We had all been through the Cultural Revolution. Faith and morals were lost, the culture and the society were chaotic,” he said. “People had lost faith on everything.” Commenting on Deng's speech, Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, said that while many have read Deng's speech as veiled criticism of current policies, the remarks might signal an internal shifting of stance within the party.
"It's important to note that he paid homage to Xi's leadership as the core leader,” Yang, an expert on Chinese politics told the Post.
"In other words, he's not there to publicly criticise Xi. One possibility is that by mid-September the Chinese leadership had already shifted their stance internally and re-learned the lessons of Deng Xiaoping," Yang said.
The remarks by Deng seemed an effort to preserve his father's legacies as Beijing seeks to reinterpret them, said Christopher Johnson, a China specialist at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.
"The speech is definitely an effort to put the 'democratic' back in democratic centralism by encouraging debate and questioning the current policy line. It's a brave act, but I'm doubtful it's more than a one-off in elite circles,” Johnson said.