Chinese paramount leader turns 92
August 21, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EDT (0040 GMT)
From Correspondent Andrea Koppel
GUANGAN, China (CNN) -- Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who
celebrates his 92nd birthday Thursday, is the hottest thing
since spicy peppers to grow up in Sichuan Province.
Deng hasn't been seen in public for two years, although his
son, Deng Pufang, said Wednesday that his father is in good
Even though the elder Deng hasn't lived in the county of
Guangan for decades, hundreds of tourists still visit his
former home in the village of Piafang every day.
The curator of the Deng family ancestral home says tourists
are motivated by respect and gratitude for his policies.
"Since openness and reform, people have prospered," curator
Chen Xiansong said. "Our lifestyles and standard of living
have improved, so we cannot forget Deng Xiaoping's policies."
But the much-acclaimed rapid economic growth that began with
a bang in the late 1970s has barely improved the lives of
Deng's former neighbors in Piafang. In the village, there's
enough food, and farmers can sell their surplus crops for
cash, but the residents are far from comfortable.
Until three years ago, Guangan, home of more than a million
people, was off limits to non-Chinese visitors because
authorities felt it was too poor and underdeveloped for
outsiders to see.
That ban has since been lifted, and local officials are
trying to attract overseas investment to their landlocked
county. But the sight of a Westerner is still rare enough to
draw a crowd.
"Of course, we hope for even more preferential policies, but
Deng Xiaoping is the leader of the whole country," said Liu
Fengcheng, a Guangan County official.
"He must consider the whole country's needs. He can't only
consider those of us here in Guangan County."
Not showing favoritism, even to a county considered to be
below China's stated poverty level, is but one of Deng's many
Another is his strong distaste for a cult of personality. The
only place in his hometown to find his picture or souvenirs
for sale is at the ancestral home, fixed up just 12 years ago
by the Chinese government.
Not that Deng has seen the renovation. In keeping with
another of his famous character traits, Deng, who lives in
Beijing, never looks back. In the 76 years since he left his
hometown, he has never returned.
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