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Economics and Trade • Rise of China

Deng Xiaoping was vice premier of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He was the most influential Chinese leader after the death of Mao Zedong. By spearheading the modernization of China's economy, he transformed its rigid communist practices into a modified capitalism.

Early Life

Born in Guang'an, Sichuan Province, China, on August 22, 1904, Deng traveled to France in 1920 on a work-study program, and there he joined the CCP in 1922. In 1927 he returned to China and was assigned to oversee the CCP's political operations. During the Chinese Civil War (1947–1949), Deng, as political commissar of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), fought hard in central China, ensuring the CCP's victory over the Nationalist forces.

Economic Reform and Foreign Affairs

After the PRC's birth in October 1949, Deng became a member of the Central People's Government Council and the Revolutionary Military Council. He also became vice chairman of the Southwest China Military and Administrative Council, responsible for reorganizing southwestern China. In August 1952, Deng became vice premier and the next year finance minister and chairman of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee. He was instrumental in preparing the first Five-Year Plan (1953–1958) to reform the Chinese economy.

By May 1954, Deng was serving as secretary-general of the CCP's Central Committee, a post that brought him to the command level of the party's hierarchy. Until the mid-1960s he assumed more posts, including membership in the Politburo. He was also active in foreign affairs, accompanying a number of delegations abroad. His tenure witnessed the emergence of the Sino-Soviet split.

Return to Power

Deng was purged three times during the Cultural Revolution on charges that he was a bourgeois reactionary. He eventually reassumed the vice premiership in mid-1977 when Hua Guofeng, the new PRC chairman, called on him to rehabilitate the Chinese economy. Returned to power, Deng inaugurated the Four Modernizations of agriculture, industry, defense, and science and technology. In foreign matters, he was equally innovative. In February 1978, he visited the United States, which resulted in full U.S. diplomatic recognition of the PRC on March 1, 1978. In terms of the PRC's reunification project, Deng developed the one country–two systems model, to be applied to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Resignation and Death

Beginning in 1981, Deng retreated from the limelight, first resigning the vice premiership, then succeeding Hua as chairman of the Central Military Commission, a post he held until 1990. During his tenure as chairman, he ordered the crackdown against demonstrators in the June 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. Deng died on February 19, 1997, in Beijing.

Debbie Yuk-fun Law
Debbie Yuk-fun Law is employed at Shue Yan University where she lectures on a variety of history courses ranging from the history of the United States to contemporary Middle Eastern history. She has also submitted her book, Delayed Accommodation: United States Policies towards Hong Kong, 1949-60, for publishing.

Further Reading

Blecher, Marc J. China against the Tides: Restructuring through Revolution, Radicalism and Reform. London: Continuum, 2003; Evans, Richard. Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China. Rev. ed. London: Penguin Books, 1997; Evans, Richard. Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China. New York: Viking, 1994; Goodman, David S. G. Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Revolution: A Political Biography. New York: Routledge, 1994; MacFarquhar, Roderick, ed. The Politics of China: The Eras of Mao and Deng. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997; Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. New York: Norton, 1990.

MLA Citation

Law, Debbie Yuk-fun. "Deng Xiaoping." World History: The Modern Era, ABC-CLIO, 2019, worldhistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/316987. Accessed 23 Aug. 2019.

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Entry ID: 2171567

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