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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

Ezra F. Vogel

ISBN 9780674725867

Publication date: 10/14/2013

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Winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

An Economist Best Book of the Year | A Financial Times Book of the Year | A Wall Street Journal Book of the Year | A Washington Post Book of the Year | A Bloomberg News Book of the Year | An Esquire China Book of the Year | A Gates Notes Top Read of the Year

Perhaps no one in the twentieth century had a greater long-term impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar of contemporary East Asian history and culture is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the many contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China’s boldest strategist.

Once described by Mao Zedong as a “needle inside a ball of cotton,” Deng was the pragmatic yet disciplined driving force behind China’s radical transformation in the late twentieth century. He confronted the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, dissolved Mao’s cult of personality, and loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted China’s growth. Obsessed with modernization and technology, Deng opened trade relations with the West, which lifted hundreds of millions of his countrymen out of poverty. Yet at the same time he answered to his authoritarian roots, most notably when he ordered the crackdown in June 1989 at Tiananmen Square.

Deng’s youthful commitment to the Communist Party was cemented in Paris in the early 1920s, among a group of Chinese student-workers that also included Zhou Enlai. Deng returned home in 1927 to join the Chinese Revolution on the ground floor. In the fifty years of his tumultuous rise to power, he endured accusations, purges, and even exile before becoming China’s preeminent leader from 1978 to 1989 and again in 1992. When he reached the top, Deng saw an opportunity to creatively destroy much of the economic system he had helped build for five decades as a loyal follower of Mao—and he did not hesitate.

Praise

  • A masterful new history of China's reform era. It pieces together from interviews and memoirs perhaps the clearest account so far of the revolution that turned China from a totalitarian backwater led by one of the monsters of the 20th century into the power it has become today...Vogel has a monumental story to tell. His main argument is that Deng deserves a central place in the pantheon of 20th-century leaders. For he not only launched China's market-oriented economic reforms but also accomplished something that had eluded Chinese leaders for almost two centuries: the transformation of the world's oldest civilization into a modern nation...[An] illuminating book.

    —John Pomfret, Washington Post

Awards

  • 2012, Winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize

Author

  • Ezra F. Vogel (1930-2020) is the author of Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize, and of the international bestseller Japan as Number One. He was Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 928 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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