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Dec-29-2008 20:40printcomments

'Two-Faced' Portrait of China's Paramount Leader Deng Xiaopeng

Deng, according to pro-democracy activist Bao Tong, believed himself a man with single mission: to save not China, nor its people, but the Communist Party.

Deng Xiaoping in 1979
Deng Xiaoping in 1979
Courtesy: Wikipedia

(HONG KONG) - A former top aide to late ousted Chinese Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang has written a stinging attack on Deng Xiaoping, who is credited with launching China on the path to economic reform 30 years ago this month, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Bao Tong, under house arrest at his Beijing home since completing a seven-year prison term in the wake of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, published his personal reminiscences of Deng in six parts to mark the 30th anniversary of China’s reforms.

“Deng’s two-sidedness was like a pendulum,” wrote Bao, whose voice is never heard publicly now in China, and whose essay was published in response to a wave of official eulogies for Deng and the economic reforms he permitted to take root.

“One minute he wanted reforms, the next he was resolutely upholding the four basic principles of socialism: One minute he wanted to escape from a political dead end, the next he had returned to it,” Bao said in his essay, broadcast on RFA’s Mandarin service.

“If he had been in primary school, his teacher would have suggested he spend a little time studying logic. If he were an ordinary person, he would have been the subject of ridicule, or of patient explanations.”

Saving the Party

Deng, according to Bao, believed himself a man with single mission: to save not China, nor its people, but the Communist Party.

“People are often bemused by his inconsistency,” he said. “But Deng’s own sense of himself was in good shape. He thought he was doing fine, because he was set apart from ordinary people.”

Bao said that while Deng tried to present himself as a “son of the people,” the Chinese people were a rather distant and hazy phenomenon for this leader who lived his life in the corridors of power, completely absorbed in its workings.

“He was the embodiment of the Party; he carried its spirit,” Bao wrote. “Louis XIV said ‘L’etat, c’est moi.’ Well, Deng was the Party.”

Deng, according to Bao, knew very well that the only system that would prevent a recurrence of the Cultural Revolution was a democratic one; but he resolutely opposed the separation of powers to preserve the Party’s monopoly on power."

“He would occasionally speak some high-flown talk of democracy, but that was just to keep up his image as a man of the people, to win the affection of the people on behalf of the Party, but the charade was never to become a reality,” Bao wrote.

“Behind his apparent double-sidedness was a single-mindedness that was pure Party spirit, a clear guiding principle that ran through the apparent confusion.”

Far from being a liberal-minded reformer, Deng wasn’t interested in economics, nor did he understand how markets worked, Bao said.

Instead, he saw a way to breathe life into the floundering Communist Party in the wake of the turmoil of the Mao era, and took it.

Bao said Deng never intended to allow “liberalism” to flourish in China.

“A lot of observers seem to think that free economic competition will naturally bring democratic politics in its train; that economic reforms will not just call for but will inevitably push forward political reform. But Deng Xiaoping made his calculations on a different abacus,” Bao wrote.

The price of reform

“The price of economic reforms was the sacrifice of any hope for future political reform. I believe that this was Deng’s bottom line, and to cross it was to walk the path of liberalism, and the road to chaos; it was no less than treason.”

Bao said the fall of reformers Hu Yaobang and his former political mentor Zhao Ziyang, who died in January 2005, was inevitable given Deng’s focus on maintaining Party rule.

Hu’s death sparked demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989, which led to the military crackdown and Zhao’s ouster.


Original essay broadcast on RFA’s Mandarin service. Director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and publishing online news, information, and commentary in nine East Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media. RFA's broadcasts seek to promote the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." RFA is funded by an annual grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

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Henry Ruark January 1, 2009 11:33 am (Pacific time)

gao: Check lead pgh in the report, which clearly characterizes Tong from both experience and actions. Elsewhere, as in any other welldone professional effort, that lead-data is further broadened. Then too there is the fact given of his recent return from 7-yr.prison term, which surely anoints him as activist unafraid to tell the truth. What more could you wish ?

gao December 30, 2008 4:22 pm (Pacific time)

why should I credit this Bao Tong?

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