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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of Chinaby Ezra F Vogel
Synopses & Reviews
Perhaps no one in the twentieth century had a greater long-term impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar of contemporary East Asian history and culture is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the many contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China's boldest strategist.
Once described by Mao Zedong as a "needle inside a ball of cotton," Deng was the pragmatic yet disciplined driving force behind China's radical transformation in the late twentieth century. He confronted the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, dissolved Mao's cult of personality, and loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted China's growth. Obsessed with modernization and technology, Deng opened trade relations with the West, which lifted hundreds of millions of his countrymen out of poverty. Yet at the same time he answered to his authoritarian roots, most notably when he ordered the crackdown in June 1989 at Tiananmen Square.
Deng's youthful commitment to the Communist Party was cemented in Paris in the early 1920s, among a group of Chinese student-workers that also included Zhou Enlai. Deng returned home in 1927 to join the Chinese Revolution on the ground floor. In the fifty years of his tumultuous rise to power, he endured accusations, purges, and even exile before becoming China's preeminent leader from 1978 to 1989 and again in 1992. When he reached the top, Deng saw an opportunity to creatively destroy much of the economic system he had helped build for five decades as a loyal follower of Mao-and he did not hesitate.
"This intensely researched doorstop delivers a step-by-step political biography of the man who gets most of the credit for China's spectacular rise to an economic juggernaut. Vogel (Japan as Number One; Lessons for America) recounts how Deng (1904 — 1997), a leading figure from the 1950s on, was banished when his preference for practicality over class struggle angered Mao Zedong during the disastrous 1969 — 1975 Cultural Revolution. Returning to power after Mao's 1976 death, he eliminated the anti-intellectualism and chaotic policy swings that characterized Mao's rule while opening the nation to Western ideas. The result was China's emergence as the world's most dynamic economy, with a free market but still with a disturbing absence of political freedom (he gives a nuanced analysis of the Tiananmen Square massacres). Vogel, emeritus Harvard history professor and former director of its Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, draws on massive Chinese scholarship, but Chinese historians treat their great men respectfully, so the book delivers a relentless stream of itineraries, meetings, political debates, speeches, and policies but few personal details. Scholars will value it, but average readers will find more minutiae than they can tolerate. 40 b&w illus.; 1 map. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
No one in the twentieth century had a greater impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China's boldest strategist--the pragmatic, disciplined force behind China's radical economic, technological, and social transformation.
A Gates Notes Top Read of 2012
An Esquire China Book of the Year, 2012
About the Author
Ezra F. Vogel is Henry Ford II Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Harvard University and former Director of Harvard's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research and the Harvard University Asia Center.
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