China’s Great Leader
DENG XIAOPING AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF CHINA.
By Ezra F. Vogel.
Belknap/Harvard. 876 pp. $39.95
More than any other individual, Deng Xiaoping made China’s modern rise possible. History is replete with examples of great leaders who made their mark through force and conquest. Far rarer, at least in the public mind, are those leaders who earned their reputations not through feats of arms but through their positive transformative actions while in power. Deng Xiaoping, whose life spanned most of the 20th century, was such a leader.
Deng spent much of his career in the shadow of Mao Zedong, the revolutionary leader who was the driving force in bringing the Chinese Communist Party to power in 1949 but then proved to be a disaster as a national leader, repeatedly plunging his country into chaos through his quixotic policies, his erratic vision, and his cavalier disregard for the welfare of the common people. Purged for the third time in 1976, as Mao approached death, Deng emerged from the convulsions of the Cultural Revolution to become China’s supreme leader in fact if not in name. In the space of less than 15 years, from 1978 to 1992, Deng set China on the course that has regained for it the wealth and power it enjoyed through much of the last two millennia. This course, if sustained, could position China to challenge the economic and military position of the United States as the world’s leading superpower.
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J. Stapleton Roy is the director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He has served as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore (1984–86), China (1991–95), and Indonesia (1996–99), and as U.S. assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research (1999–2000).more from this author >>
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