Deng Xiaoping

Delia Davin

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Deng Xiaoping

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Deng Xiaoping became China’s effective leader in 1978, two years after the death of Mao Zedong. He formally retired in 1992 but was referred to in the Chinese press as the paramount leader and remained influential until his death, in 1997. Deng presided over the economic reforms of the post-Mao years, which produced dramatic growth, profound social transformation, and, eventually, a market economy. He also oversaw the arrangements by which Hong Kong was returned to China. He did not favor political liberalization, was suspicious of dissent, and suppressed the prodemocracy movement in 1989. Deng was born in rural Sichuan in 1904. He traveled to France when he was only sixteen and, in his six years there, became involved in the nascent Chinese Communist movement. After a further year of study in Moscow, Deng returned to China. He worked as a political commissar with the Communist armies in South China, participated in the Long March in 1934–1935, and served with the Communist armies both in the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and the second phase of the Chinese Civil War (1946–1949). When the Communists took power nationally, in 1949, Deng became mayor of Chongqing and held various posts in Southwest China. Transferred to Beijing in 1952, he played a major role in the Eighth Party Congress, in 1956, at which he was elected general secretary. Although Deng had not opposed Mao’s Great Leap Forward in advance, he expressed concern about the food shortages to which it gave rise, and in its aftermath worked with Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai to bring about economic recovery by increasing peasant family incentives within collective agriculture. In the Cultural Revolution, Deng was criticized, with Liu Shaoqi, for revisionism and dismissed from his posts. Mao brought him back to Beijing in 1973 and subsequently gave him day-to-day control of the government as vice-premier. However, Mao became concerned that Deng valued production more highly than class struggle and that he might one day reverse Mao’s radical policies. On the death of Zhou Enlai, in January 1976, Deng was passed over for the premiership, and in April he was again dismissed from office. At Mao’s own death, in September 1976, his chosen successor, Hua Guofeng, took his place. But by the end of 1978, Deng’s wealth of experience and his network of loyal supporters in the army, the party, and the government allowed the veteran leader de facto to oust Hua Guofeng from the leadership. Deng’s program of market reform and modernization produced rapid economic advance, greatly improved living standards, and enhanced China’s international standing. However, he did not encourage political reform and is remembered for the military suppression of the student movement in Tiananmen Square, in 1989.

Article.  9380 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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