Byline: ANN LESLIE
THE only official position he held at the time of his death was that of president of the Chinese bridge-playing federation. In reality, this 4ft 11in Chinese Communist `Emperor' was master of a quarter of the world's population - a man whose only ideology was power and who was prepared to slaughter his own people in full view of the world's television cameras to maintain it.
The Butcher of Peking is dead at last, his tiny, implacable body destroyed at last, his reputation as China's Great Reformer diminished by the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
It had been 92-year-old Deng Xiaoping who created the illusion that China's leaders were now `like us' - and Deng Xiaoping who, in a spasm of Lear-like rage, had destroyed it.
Had he died a year before Tiananmen, Western leaders would have heaped his coffin with praise. Thanks to his open door policy to the West, his reforms - which have transformed his backward and poverty-stricken nation into the fastest-growing economy in the world - and his debunking of fanatical Maoism, the blunt-speaking, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking Deng had, until Gorbachev, been capitalism's favourite Communist.
Film star Shirley MacLaine once wrote a spectacularly nitwitted book about the `achievements' of Mao's catastrophic Cultural Revolution, during which millions of rightists like Deng were banished to pig farms to `learn from the masses'.
His son, now as powerful and corrupt as the other `red princelings' (the name given by the Chinese to the sons and daughters of the leadership), was crippled when he was thrown out of a window by Mao's Red Guards.
During the Cultural Revolution, ten million lives were ruined, 800,000 died and the world's most ancient civilisation became brutally cretinised by the purging of an entire generation of intellectuals.
But when the feisty Deng visited America after Mao's death, Ms MacLaine gushingly told him how she'd met an atomic scientist working as a farm labourer and how wonderful it was when he told her `that learning how to grow a tomato was as important to him as learning to split atoms!'
Deng looked up at her witheringly: `He lied to you. …