Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life

Dikotter_06_15Frank Dikötter at Literary Review:

Deng was himself denounced during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of willed chaos ably and critically covered by the authors. Even so, they underplay just how complicit Deng was in creating the very campaign that engulfed him and his family. They never mention his active participation in vicious denunciation meetings against the former minister of public security Luo Ruiqing, who eventually jumped through a window in an unsuccessful bid to commit suicide ('He dived like a popsicle,' Deng scoffed). Likewise missing is even a cursory reference to Deng's leading role in persecuting Ulanfu, the head of Inner Mongolia, whom Deng harshly accused in July 1966 of every conceivable crime, from 'taking the capitalist road' to 'opposing Chairman Mao'. A few months later Deng's own turn came, with accusations that he was the 'Number Two Capitalist Roader'.

But the Chairman protected Deng. Unlike many of his colleagues, he rarely endured struggle sessions with Red Guards, but spent many years in the countryside, sheltered from the vagaries of the Cultural Revolution. As the third and final part, 'The Pragmatist', demonstrates, the Chairman even brought him back twice, using him to counterbalance the growing influence of Zhou Enlai. Here, too, there are curious omissions. It is well known, for instance, that as chief-of-staff of the People's Liberation Army, Deng ordered a military crackdown on a Muslim-dominated county in Yunnan in 1975, prompting the massacre of over 1,600 people, some of them children.

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