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World - Asia/Pacific

Deng Xiaoping


The driving force of a modern China

(CNN) -- Deng Xiaoping was many things to many people. He was the great reformer, the party recalcitrant, the liberal visionary.

But in 1989, he forever became the man who ordered the military to put down student-led demonstrations in Beijing. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.

It was a legacy Deng took to his grave. Deng was 92 when he died in 1997.

The Tiananmen Square killings were the biggest blemish on Deng's record and although his lieutenants such as then- Premier Li Peng were often blamed, there was little doubt that Deng, in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission, issued the shoot-to-kill order.

Who's who
The government
The Activists: Division in the ranks
Chai Ling, Li Lu, Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi
Families still mourn

Interactive Gallery:
A look back

Modern China
Rural democracy
Military might

Interview transcripts
a crackdown defender
a victim's mother
former Communist Party official
Premier Zhu Rongji

From TIME Asia
We remember
Where are they now?
Memories that won't fade

Message Board
Tiananmen Square anniversary

In an interview with The New York Times in January 1995, his youngest daughter, Deng Rong, defended her father.

"At least in my father's heart he believed he had no other alternative but to take this action and that it had to be taken," she reportedly said. "If no firm action was taken, China's future would be too terrible to imagine."

Deng's influence on China this century was enormous and second only to that of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, the man he succeeded in 1979 just three years after the "Great Helmsman's" death.

Deng was a Chinese Communist Party loyalist who joined the Party at the age of 20 but came into repeated conflict with Party ideologues. He was twice purged from the ruling hierarchy.

But with his elevation to paramount leader and the death or disappearance of his enemies, Deng set about trying to establish China as a wealthy, modern nation embracing the benefits of a market economy.

The results were impressive. The standard of living soared in China as people forgot the shackles of Communism and set about improving their lives.

Deng also established and improved ties with key Western governments pledging never again to close China's doors to the outside world.

But Deng's refusal to share power with non-Communist Party elements and the outlawing of opposition parties was a major factor behind the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

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