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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China


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Anyone else looked at this at all? Massive biography of Comrade Xiaoping, by Ezra Vogel. It magically turned up on my hard drive, meaning I didn't notice how big it is - I seem to have been reading for at least a month and I'm barely at reform and opening up. The list of sources and people spoken to is pretty impressive, and it's virtually a day-by-day account of the man's life. Who he spoke to about what, where he went when.

In all honesty I'm probably going to give up - I just don't need to know this stuff, and it's holding up my reading list. I might skip forward to 1989, I don't know. But if this is the kind of thing that floats your boat I can see it being essential reading. The reviews do seem to complain it pays more attention to his achievements than his errors, but I figure if you bear that in mind while reading . . .


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Don't know what wushijiao did to deserve that. ;-)

Basically it says he did what he was told, and didn't start to disagree with Mao till the Great Leap Forward. This is in what is in effect a long introduction covering birth to being packed off to Jiangxi in 69 and basically gets skimmed over. The Anti-Rightist Campaign gets a paragraph. So when I say massively detailed, I mean massively detailed later . . .

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From the table of contents, it looks like out of 700 pages, the book has only 34 pages on the first 65 years of his life (1904-1969). That's quite a compression.


Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

Ezra F. Vogel

Here is a good review of the book by John Pomfret, who was the China correspondent for the Washington Post for many years.


Vogel also provides enlightening details of Deng’s efforts to use ties with the United States and Japan to China’s advantage. While Mao opened China to the West as a way to counter the Soviet Union, Deng realized that American and Japanese technology, investment and knowledge would be keys to his country’s advance. They were. Indeed, no nation has been more important to China’s modernization than the United States — a fact that no Chinese official has ever acknowledged.

This is a good point. The anti-Japanese rhetoric from the Chinese government mostly started after 1989, when the Party tried to rebuild its legitimacy through an increasingly nationalistic message. During the 1980s, when I was in elementary school in China, the main focus of the government's message was in building a friendship with the Japan and most of the foreign shows on TV were Japanese。 There was a very popular TV series about a Japanese women's volleyball team.




Moero Attack – girl, volleyball, old Japanese drama


An idol revisited

Kojika Jun, the impressive protagonist in the popular Japanese TV series Moero Attack (also known as Women Players of Volleyball) has influenced the growth of several Chinese generations and left them many fond memories.

The series was the inspiring dream-come-true story of a girl who struggles to become a talented volleyball player.

When it was screened in China in 1983, her sweet smile and volleyball skills made the character an idol for numerous young people.

Araki is now engaged in promoting her latest autobiography around Japan. She is also looking forward to visiting Beijing in summer for the Olympic Games.

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I've seen a lot of discussion about it, and the complaints seem to fall into two categories: 1) not enough about young Deng, and Deng from the 1930's to 1978, and 2) that it's too sycophantic and not critical enough. With that said, it does seem like a valuable resource. I think it's fair to argue that Deng might be one of the most influential people of the 20th century.

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the book has only 34 pages on the first 65 years of his life (1904-1969).

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

I guess he wasn't responsible for much transfomation until after 1969.... 8)

I'd seen this book but hadn't realised how long it is, so I think I'll give it a miss. Would be nice to have a magic hard drive like Roddy's though.

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Here's the one paragraph in the book on Deng's role in the 1957 Anti-Rightist Movement, on page 40 of the book:


Beginning in the spring of 1957, many intellectuals and leaders of the minority parties, who had been encouraged to speak out in the campaign to "let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend," surprised Mao with the depth of their criticism. Mao lashed back at those "bourgeois intellectuals" who could not erase their class origins even though capitalism had already been eliminated. In the summer of 1957, Mao launched the "anti-rightist campaign" to discredit all those who had been so critical of the party. During the campaign, which Mao tapped Deng to manage, Mao led a vicious attack on some 550,000 intellectual critics branded as rightists. Deng, who during the Hundred Flowers period had told local party officials to listen to criticism and not fight back, was disturbed that some intellectuals had arrogantly and unfairly criticized officials who were trying to cope with their complex and difficult assignments. During the anti-rightist campaign, Deng strongly supported Mao in defending the authority of the party and in attacking the outspoken intellectuals. These attacks, and Deng's role in them, would not be forgotten by China's intellectual elite.

Strange that Vogel says that "some intellectuals had arrogantly and unfairly criticized officials who were trying to cope with their complex and difficult assignments", but does not mention that many of these 550,000 were jailed or sent to labor camps.

A bit of an over-reaction to arrogant and unfair criticism of officials?

I would say that this is an air-brushing of both the Anti-Rightist Movement and Deng's role in leading it.

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I guess he wasn't responsible for much transfomation until after 1969....

But it is important to talk about the formative experiences in the first 65 years of his life that allowed him to "transform" China. 65 years is a pretty long time ;-)

This is a biography of Deng and not just a history of China post-1969.

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I just started reading part of it and while it is like a biography. I'd use it in a looser sense because I feel it talks more about Deng's role in the Transformation of China rather than a true biography. Hence why I think it is structured to focus so much on one part.

And to Gato, the preface of the book would tell you why there is so little about Deng's early life. He never took notes and many lectures he gave were also without notes. Thus, the amount of information available is much less for Deng than for others. At the same time, the writer came to China in 1973. It is important to note that this historian was a part of the transformation of China so it would make sense for the writer to speak more about what he witnessed first hand. This isn't like a biography written by a person 200 years later. This is in part about an account filtered slightly due to first hand ifnormation.

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I was just reading a little about Deng Xiaopin and was surprised to learn that from 1978 - 1992 he was the de facto leader of PRC but never occupied any official leadership positions (president, premier). Why didn't he?

[Yeah, I'm a slacker but rather pass on reading that 700 page biography about Deng]

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He did have these positions, the most important of which was probably as the chairman of the Military Commission.



1982年9月13日 – 1987年11月2日


1981年6月28日 – 1989年11月9日


1983年6月6日 – 1990年3月19日


1978年3月8日 – 1983年6月17日

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Note that Deng wasn't even a member of the Advisor Committee in 1989, when he was still the Chairman of the Military Committee. If the Advisor Committee were more important for his power, then his power would have been diminished once he left the committee at the end of 1987, which is clearly not the case.

But the original point is right that he was a superman of Chinese politics and his power transcended any of his formal titles.

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And that's where you are wrong once again.

It doesn't matter when he was in a position or even what position he held.

His power was derived from the Eight Elders which is why I mentioned the CAC since that's the best representation for that cohort.

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Why didn't you just say the Eight Elders then?

And the Eight Elders was not a position, which goes to the point that who Deng was was more important than his formal positions. It didn't matter that he was not a member of the Advisor Committee after 1987.

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I think you're both missing the point that he was of course chairman of the Chinese Bridge Association which gave him immense power and prestige, and meant that his economic reforms completely wrong-footed his principal political opponents who were all afficionadoes of the 'Beat the Landlord' card game.

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