Deng Xiaoping

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“I don’t care if the cat is black or white, I just want it to kill the mice.” - Deng Xiaoping.

Deng Xiaoping has been the individual with the most impact on China since the 1970’s. Along with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, he is looked at as one of the key figures in evolution of communism in China . Deng Xiaoping will be remembered as a national hero, but this was not always the case. The real story of Deng includes the fact that, on more than one occasion, his peers ostracized him. During his lifetime he has been a part of the many changes in China throughout the twentieth century. He was by Mao Zedong’s side through all of the struggles of the Chinese Communist Party; battling with Chiang Kai-shek and the Guomindang over and over, and surviving Mao in order to change China and enter a new era. His most recent accomplishments, those being of economic reform and opening China more and more to the West, an important step in this day and age, may have been his greatest. His life has been a paradoxical one of ease and struggle, but as they say, that goes with the territory.

The purpose of this essay is twofold. It is a means to reflect upon the accomplishments and failures of a man who has influenced today’s China; and to present it all in an interesting, yet refreshingly honest way. I will look at three aspects of Deng Xiaoping’s life: First, the story of his youth and family, from when he was born until his return from France and Moscow, 1927. Second, a look at his beginnings in the Chinese Communist Party from 1927 to 1949, its struggle, and his rise. And finally, a look at his recent accomplishments and failures and what they have done for the People’s Republic of China.

The Young Deng: 1904-1927

Deng Xiaoping was born on August 22nd, 1904, in Paifang, a village in Sichuan province near the town of Guang’an. His name at birth was Deng Xixian, which he subsequently changed when he became a young revolutionary. His father, Deng Wenming, was a small landowner who has been described as energetic, sanguine, and gregarious . His mother, Dan Shideng, was the second wife of Deng’s father. Deng himself was the second child borne of his mother, and he was the eldest son. Deng’s family roots are quite interesting in themselves. His ancestors had moved to Sichuan from the south some 200 years before Deng’s birth. His ancestors were Hakka, or Hil...

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... military. There is a military hierarchy, and a political hierarchy, each with equal power except in times of battle.

Sichuan – also known as the province of Szechwan, which would be more recognized in Canada on Chinese food menus, for its food with spicy character, not unlike Deng Xiaoping himself.

Zhou Enlai – Member of the CCP since his youth, befriended young Deng in France in the 1920’s, eventually rose to the rank of Premier, which he held until his death in 1976.



Deng, Maomao. Deng Xiaoping: My Father. Beijing: BasicBooks, 1995

Evans, Richard. Deng Xiaoping and the making of Modern China. New York: Penguin, 1994.

Falkenheim, Victor C. Chinese Politics from Mao to Deng. New York: Paragon House, 1989.

. Franz, Uli. Deng Xiaoping. Translated by Tom Artin. Orlando: Harcourt Bruce Jovanovich, 1988.

Goodman, David S. G. Deng Xiaoping. London: Macdonald & Co., 1990.


Cheung, Steven N. S. “Deng Xiaoping’s great transformation”. Contemporary Economic Policy, April 1998.

Feldman, Harvey. “From Mao to Deng”. The World & I, October 1999.

Hughes, Neil C. “Smashing the iron rice bowl”. Foreign Affairs, July/August 1998.
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