cubby_t_bear: (Brainy Smurf)
[personal profile] cubby_t_bear

Ezra Vogel wrote a really really long biography of Deng Xiaoping, the second Emperor of the Communist Dynasty. It's massive, packed with detail, enormously interesting, and more than a bit scary. So Deng Xiaoping was one of those elemental badass guys who's a lot of fun to read about, and very scary when you realize that real people had to deal with him and the consequences of his actions. Much like his old boss Mao Zedong, that way, except that where Mao was more of a crazy mad warrior poet dictator, Deng was more of a Determinator.

So let's see. Deng was born in a village somewhere in central China. The book says where, but it matters not, because he so dedicated himself to the Party and the Cause that he never went back - it wouldn't do to have divisive regional loyalties. He was a good student, so he went overseas to France, where his scholarship fell through, and seeking a way to better himself, he joined the Chinese Communist Party. Evidently, that was a thing students did back then. He was a political commissar during the Revolution, and ended up governing several provinces in southern China during the transition, after which he joined the governing bureaucracy, ending up as General Secretary of the Party, where he helped execute Mao's Great Leap Forward, and then tried to ameliorate the aftermath.

He got purged during the Cultural Revolution, and got sent to be a mechanic on a farm workshop for several years. He spent those years making up a list of things to be changed in China in his head, in between writing very obsequious letters to Mao and smoking a lot. Mao eventually brought him back as a possible successor; he showed his loyalty to Mao by mercilessly denouncing Zhou En-lai, his old friend of 50 years standing. This wasn't enough, and he got purged again anyways.

His years as Supreme Leader were marked by the utmost pragmatism. He sent 250,000 troops into Vietnam on an explicit burn and destroy mission to check Vietnamese expansionism. He wanted China to move forward, and to open up, and do whatever worked to improve the economy and the technology. This meant that he could be friendly and cheerful, but also merciless. He pushed his minions to take political fire so that he could be the sage leader and backer of only those reforms that worked, and he threw Hu Yaobang overboard when he drew too much fire from diehard Communist ideologues. Then there was Tiananmen Square, where he made it pretty clear that threats to the Party were not to be tolerated.

His first wife and child died when he was away trying to foment a Communist revolution (that was crushed) in Guangxi province. He joined the Maoist faction early, and was purged for it, and his second wife left him for his purger. His third marriage lasted until his death, but his son was defenestrated by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution (which didn't keep him from demonstrating his fealty to Mao over and over to get back into power). In true Confucian fashion, he never wavered in his faith in the Communist Party and the Cause.

Deng was a pretty scary guy.
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