Deng: A Political Biography

Deng: A Political Biography

Deng: A Political Biography

Deng: A Political Biography


Deng: A Political Biography is the story of an extraordinary man whose imprint on late twentieth-century China's social, political, and economic development is indelible. Written by an insider, this study is notable for the great detail it provides on elite-level Chinese Communist Party politics and Deng Xiaoping's changing relations with his party colleagues in the jockeying for power that constitutes an important aspect of CCP politics. Benjamin Yang has a masterful grasp of this dimension of Chinese politics, and his narrative leaves no doubt that Deng was a politician first and foremost. This fascinating biography combines intimate details and the sweep of history encompassing the epic struggles of twentieth-century China. Students of China, scholars as well as general readers, will find this book indispensable.


Barely five-feet high, a chain-smoker for sixty years, Deng Xiaoping became the un-Maoist giant of post-Mao China. His little eyes were set far apart on a round face and his bullet head sat on wide shoulders with virtually no neck. As a presence, he could not compare with the imposing Mao Zedong or the handsome Zhou Enlai. Yet he changed China, enormously, mostly for the better.

Mao brought communist rule to China. Deng tried to save communism with one hand and bury it with the other. His career paralleled the rise, crisis of faith, and decline of the revolution which Mao made-- and the birth of a different China, economically minded at home and nationalistic abroad.

Deng planted seeds that will continue to show fruits well into China's twenty-first century. In foreign policy, he basically replaced "revolution" as the key value with "nation." Has this change ushered in a period during which China will be to Asia what Bismarck's Germany was to Europe? Deng dismantled Maoism, but did he also dismantle the essentials of the Leninist system?

China during most of the twentieth century has clung to single, oversimplified solutions to its post-dynastic problems. "Mr. Science and Mr. Democracy" were supposed to rejuvenate China after World War One. Chiang Kai-shek in the 1940s thought he found a panacea in reliance on the United States. In the 1950s, Beijing said "the Soviet Union's today is China's tomorrow." By the 1980s, a certain amount of blind pro- Westernism returned as the presumed key to China's salvation.

By contrast, Deng, to his credit, spurned single, over-simplified solutions. His bent was for eclecticism. In this respect he was less akin to Mao than to Sun Yat-sen, the Honolulu-educated patriot who helped overthrow the last dynasty in 1911. He benefited from being regarded as a political man within the army, yet as a military man in the eyes of . . .

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