||Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997)
doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice."
Deng Xiaoping, was one of the most influential people in modern Chinese history. He led
China into a new era of economic stability. His checkered life reflected the volatile
history of 20th century China. Deng Xiaoping took measures completely different from those
of Mao after Mao died. In that sense, he is said to one of China's
"Anti-Revolutionists". He is remembered for his great leadership abilities, but
for his anti-democratic views as well.
On July 12, 1904, Deng was born in the Bainfang Village in southwest Sichuan province. The
eldest son of the country sheriff, the child was named Deng Xixian, a two-character name
that means, "first saint". In 1909, when he was nine years old, he began
studying at a private school, and after he learned there for two years, he went to a
primary school. He was wise in the cradle, and it is said that if he read a book three
times, he was able to learn the book by heart". After he left primary school, he went
to high-grade primary school, middle school, and when he was 15 years old, he began a
preparatory school before studying and working in France. When he was aged 15, the Russian
Revolution began, and he was deeply influenced by the anti-imperialist campaign.
In 1920, when he was sixteen years old, he left his homeland to go to France. There, he
learned about communism the old-fashioned way; he also worked in a factory. In 1922, Deng
joined the Communist Party of Chinese Youth in Europe, and he took part in the edition of
the party newsletter. At that time, Zhou Enlai was the editor in chief. He put a high
value on Deng's work, and their permanent friendship was united. After that in 1926, he
left for Moscow and attended school there until the end of the year. In 1927, he came back
to China and began work with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). When the Kuomintang turned
the line into anti-Communist, he worked as the secretary of the CCP. It was then that his
name was changed into "Deng Xiaoping". In 1931, he worked with Mao to establish
the bases of the Red Army in the south-central province of Jiangxi, but he was severely
snubbed and lost his prestige. After that he transferred the base to Guangxi and took part
in the Long March. After the Long March, he became the First Secretary of the southwest
bureau of the CCP. And during the civil war between the Communists and Kuomintang, he
struggled with the political committee. And when he was forty-five years old, the People's
Republic of China was established.
It was in the 1950's that Deng began to gain power in politics. He exposed conspiracies,
and in the controversy between China and the USSR, he disputed bitterly with the Soviets.
As far as the domestic politics were concerned, he advocated the famous
"cat-ism": "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as
it catches mice". That is, "feed the people, no matter what it takes".
During the Cultural Revolution he was criticized as a "capital-roader", and
toppled from power. In 1973, he backed the party, and stood on the political front lines
of the international politics, but when the Tiananmen Incident occurred, he was toppled
again. In 1977, after the fall of "Gang of Four" which occurred after the death
of Mao, he became a significant leader. He advocated the "reform and opening up"
program, making an effort to make China more modern. As the result, its economy developed
rapidly. Toward the end of his life he began to contradict some of these policies. He had
not appeared in public since 1994. Looking frail, he required help walking and had great
difficulty hearing. On February 19th, 1997, Deng Xiaoping, one of the most influential men
in modern China had died.
When Mao decided to adopt Deng at the end of the Cultural Revolution, he expressed his
personality this way; "Cotton has a needle within it", that is he looks
flexible, but the core is hard. It was "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or
white, as long as it catches mice." That represented his thought most clearly. He
removed the idealism, dealing with issues practically. The public criticized his thought.
But even after the revival, he continued to persist in this attitude. And as the result,
the economy of China developed rapidly. But ironically, he still continued to suppress the
group demanding democracy with violence and retaliation.
After the end of the Cultural Revolution, he promoted a practical line for the
reconstruction of China. In the middle of the 80's, he subdivided the people's communes.
From the end of 1986, there was a campaign demanding a move towards democratization, but
he came out against that, and had Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang removed. And at the second
Tiananmen Incident in 1989, he oppressed the people with violence, refusing to accept
their demands. As a result the conservatives in the party began to have doubts about his
policies, and at the beginning of the 90's his policy of "reform and opening up"
began to stagnate. In 1992 he started to travel to China's southern Provinces. There he
urged the Chinese to speed up the economic growth in special regions such as Shanghai. The
"Reform and opening-up" policy brought a rapid development of the economy, on
the other hand, despite his efforts, social contradictions and deteriorating morale began
to appear. In this sense, he was "the last emperor" who reflected the enormous
contradictions modern China had in the 20th century.