“I don’t care if the cat is black or white, I just want it to kill the mice.” - Deng Xiaoping.
Deng Xiaoping has been the individual with the most impact on China since the 1970’s. Along with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, he is looked at as one of the key figures in evolution of communism in China . Deng Xiaoping will be remembered as a national hero, but this was not always the case. The real story of Deng includes the fact that, on more than one occasion, his peers ostracized him. During his lifetime he has been a part of the many changes in China throughout the twentieth century. He was by Mao Zedong’s side through all of the struggles of the Chinese Communist Party; battling with Chiang Kai-shek and the Guomindang over and over, and surviving Mao in order to change China and enter a new era. His most recent accomplishments, those being of economic reform and opening China more and more to the West, an important step in this day and age, may have been his greatest. His life has been a paradoxical one of ease and struggle, but as they say, that goes with the territory.
The purpose of this essay is twofold. It is a means to reflect upon the accomplishments and failures of a man who has influenced today’s China; and to present it all in an interesting, yet refreshingly honest way. I will look at three aspects of Deng Xiaoping’s life: First, the story of his youth and family, from when he was born until his return from France and Moscow, 1927. Second, a look at his beginnings in the Chinese Communist Party from 1927 to 1949, its struggle, and his rise. And finally, a look at his recent accomplishments and failures and what they have done for the People’s Republic of China.
The Young Deng: 1904-1927
Deng Xiaoping was born on August 22nd, 1904, in Paifang, a village in Sichuan province near the town of Guang’an. His name at birth was Deng Xixian, which he subsequently changed when he became a young revolutionary. His father, Deng Wenming, was a small landowner who has been described as energetic, sanguine, and gregarious . His mother, Dan Shideng, was the second wife of Deng’s father. Deng himself was the second child borne of his mother, and he was the eldest son. Deng’s family roots are quite interesting in themselves. His ancestors had moved to Sichuan from the south some 200 years before Deng’s birth. His ancestors were Hakka, or Hill People, the same as another notoriously famous person in Chinese history, Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion. However, the family had shaken their Hakka roots well before the time of Deng’s birth. Another ancestor, Deng Shimin, held a high rank under Qianlong, who’s name you might remember in relation to the Opium Wars. His father was a member of the Society of Elder Brothers, one of the oldest and strongest of Chinese secret societies and he also was a key member of the Faith of the Five Brothers, a Taoist-Buddhist society. Through these connections, Yang Sen, a local...