Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping dies
Led economic reform; cracked down on political dissent
February 19, 1997
Web posted at: 5:24 p.m. EDT (1724 GMT)
BEIJING (CNN) -- Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who opened China's economy to the world while maintaining strict ideological control, died
Wednesday at age 92.
China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said Deng died from complications from Parkinson's disease and a lung infection.
Deng was the great reformer, the man who first initiated the
process of change that swept the communist world. But, even
when challenged in the streets, Deng never abandoned
his commitment to Communist Party rule in China.
Chinese Central Television (English version)
Official announcement on Deng's death
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CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon:
Initial report on Deng's death
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CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon:
"Streets are very quiet," report from Beijing at 1845 GMT
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Wolf Blitzer on U.S.-China relations
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Deng joined the Chinese Communist Party when he was 20, and
rose to prominence with the triumph of Chairman Mao Tse-
tung's revolution. But Deng's pragmatism brought him into
repeated conflict with Party ideologues. Twice he was purged
from the ruling hierarchy, twice he was rehabilitated.
Finally, following Mao's death in 1976, Deng emerged as
China's paramount leader, and set the People's Republic on a
course of reform and liberalization that would change the
face of China and the world.
His goal was a wealthy, modern, powerful China -- one worthy of international respect. His method was the open door, establishing ties with the United States and other Western nations, encouraging international investment, private enterprise, family farming, and other aspects of a market economy.
For Deng -- who never officially took the posts of Communist
Party chief or head of government -- the guiding principle
was pragmatism. "It doesn't matter if a cat is black or
white," he was fond of saying, "as long as it catches mice."
The results were immediate and impressive. The standard of
living in China shot up. Freed from the shackles of Maoism,
the people rediscovered style, music, romance, fun, and hope.
But liberalization also led to economic dislocation and to
outbursts of public discontent -- tensions which finally
exploded on the streets of Beijing in the spring of 1989.
It was the most serious challenge to Communist rule since the
revolution. But it was crushed, at a cost of hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of lives, on the orders of Deng. Tiananmen Square became a vivid symbol of Chinese leaders' fierce opposition to democracy.
But despite his opposition to political liberalization, Deng
never abandoned his vision of economic reform. Following the
collapse of Soviet communism, Deng concluded that the best
hope of keeping the Chinese Communist Party in power -- and
avoiding another Tiananmen -- was to deliver the economic
goods to the people.
And so, in 1992, after a year out of public view, Deng
emerged from retirement and launched a campaign for more and
faster capitalist-style reform.
The country responded with a boom that gave China the highest
economic growth rate in the world and left the Communist
Party in power but increasingly irrelevant to the
daily lives of the people, who became more interested in making money than making revolution.
And so -- despite his role in the bloodshed in
Tiananmen Square -- in trying to preserve the revolution he
served for so long, Deng set in motion the forces which may
have begun to turn China away from the path of communism.
In recent years, Deng has been increasingly in the
shadows, as his health failed. But Chinese officials rallied
to give the appearance that he was still in command of the most populous country in the world.
Correspondent Mike Chinoy contributed to this report.
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