- LAST REVIEWED: 18 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0064
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0064
Deng Xiaoping became China’s effective leader in 1978, two years after the death of Mao Zedong. He formally retired in 1992 but was referred to in the Chinese press as the paramount leader and remained influential until his death, in 1997. Deng presided over the economic reforms of the post-Mao years, which produced dramatic growth, profound social transformation, and, eventually, a market economy. He also oversaw the arrangements by which Hong Kong was returned to China. He did not favor political liberalization, was suspicious of dissent, and suppressed the prodemocracy movement in 1989. Deng was born in rural Sichuan in 1904. He traveled to France when he was only sixteen and, in his six years there, became involved in the nascent Chinese Communist movement. After a further year of study in Moscow, Deng returned to China. He worked as a political commissar with the Communist armies in South China; participated in the Long March in 1934–1935; and served with the Communist armies in both the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and the second phase of the Chinese Civil War (1946–1949). When the Communists took power nationally, in 1949, Deng became mayor of Chongqing and held various posts in Southwest China. Transferred to Beijing in 1952, he played a major role in the Eighth Party Congress, in 1956, at which he was elected general secretary. Although Deng had not opposed Mao’s Great Leap Forward in advance, he expressed concern about the food shortages to which it gave rise and in its aftermath worked with Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai to bring about economic recovery by increasing peasant family incentives within collective agriculture. In the Cultural Revolution, Deng was criticized, with Liu Shaoqi, for revisionism and dismissed from his posts. Mao brought him back to Beijing in 1973 and subsequently gave him day-to-day control of the government as vice-premier. However, Mao became concerned that Deng valued production more highly than class struggle and that he might one day reverse Mao’s radical policies. On the death of Zhou Enlai, in January 1976, Deng was passed over for the premiership, and in April he was again dismissed from office. At Mao’s own death, in September 1976, his chosen successor, Hua Guofeng, took his place. But by the end of 1978, Deng’s wealth of experience and his network of loyal supporters in the army, the party, and the government allowed the veteran leader de facto to oust Hua Guofeng from the leadership. Deng’s program of market reform and modernization produced rapid economic advance, greatly improved living standards, and enhanced China’s international standing. However, he did not encourage political reform and is remembered for the military suppression of the student movement in Tiananmen Square, in 1989.
A number of biographies cover Deng’s life and work. All were written after he rose to prominence as China’s supreme leader in the late 1970s. The first to be published were popular accounts that responded to a demand for information about a man whose rise seemed so sudden. Later, academic studies followed that benefited from access to the copious material on Chinese Communist Party history that was first made available in the 1990s. Goodman 1994 and Yang 1998 offer short overviews of Deng’s life and his part in the Chinese revolution. Goodman’s study is of interest for its assessments and contains a bibliographic chapter on Deng’s speeches and writing. Yang, who had much newly published Chinese material available to him and was able to conduct many interviews in China, makes various factual corrections to earlier biographies. He speculates on motivations and makes judgments. Evans 1995, written by a former British diplomat to Beijing, provides a more dispassionate but readable account of Deng’s life and career. Franz 1988 and Bonavia 1989 have been largely superseded, but Salisbury 1993 is still of interest for information gleaned from interviews and for its comparative perspective.
Bonavia, David. Deng. Quarry Bay, Hong Kong: Longman, 1989.
An early study by a British journalist long based in Beijing.
Evans, Richard. Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China. Rev. ed. London: Penguin, 1995.
Based mostly but not exclusively on English-language sources, this knowledgeable study gives attention to all aspects of Deng’s career. Evans was the British ambassador to Beijing when the agreement that ended 150 years of colonial rule in Hong Kong was finalized. Largely sympathetic to Deng. A good introduction also of interest to specialists.
Franz, Uli. Deng Xiaoping. Translated by Tom Artin. Boston: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.
English translation of Deng Xiaoping: Chinas Erneuerer: Eine Biographie, originally published in 1987 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt). Pioneering study of Deng, largely superseded by more recent biographies.
Goodman, David S. G. Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Revolution: A Political Biography. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.
A lively, accessible account that considers the sources of Deng’s power and that is not afraid to attempt evaluations. The bibliographic chapter on Deng’s writing, speeches, and so on is particularly useful.
Salisbury, Harrison E. The New Emperors: Mao and Deng: A Dual Biography. London: HarperCollins, 1993.
A chatty journalistic work still of interest for its format as a comparative biography and for the material drawn from interviews conducted by the author as a foreign correspondent in China. Full of intriguing but not necessarily reliable personal detail.
Shambaugh, David, ed. Deng Xiaoping: Portrait of a Chinese Statesman. Studies on Contemporary China. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.
Originally published as Special Issue: Deng Xiaoping: An Assessment, edited by David Shambaugh, China Quarterly 135 (1993). A slightly dated collection of articles by modern China specialists. Its organization by topic—Deng as a politician, an economist, a social reformer, a soldier, a statesman—makes the volume useful for examining any particular aspect of Deng’s life.
Yang, Benjamin. Deng: A Political Biography. Armonk, NY, and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1998.
Chatty, informal style, but based on considerable scholarship. The author visited places where Deng had lived and conducted many interviews. Provides good detail on Deng’s childhood and family background. Portrays Deng as an ordinary though resourceful person who achieved extraordinary things.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- 1989 People's Movement
- Agriculture, Origins of
- Architecture, Chinese
- Assertive Nationalism and China's Core Interests
- Buddhist Monasticism
- Central-Local Relations
- Chiang Kai-shek
- Children's Culture and Social Studies
- China and Africa
- China and the World, 1900-1949
- China's Agricultural Regions
- China's West
- Chinese Communist Party Since 1949, The
- Chinese Communist Party to 1949, The
- Chinese Diaspora, The
- Chinese Script, The
- Christianity in China
- Classical Confucianism
- Consumer Society
- Contemporary Chinese Art Since 1976
- Criticism, Traditional
- Cross-Straits Relations
- Cultural Revolution
- Deng Xiaoping
- Dialect Groups of the Chinese Language
- Disability Studies
- Drama (Xiqu 戏曲) Performance Arts, Traditional Chinese
- Dream of the Red Chamber
- Economic Reforms, 1978-Present
- Economy, 1949-1978
- Economy, 1895-1949
- Environmental Issues in Contemporary China
- Environmental Issues in Pre-Modern China
- Establishment Intellectuals
- Ethnicity and Minority Nationalities Since 1949
- Examination System, The
- Fall of the Qing, 1840-1912, The
- Falun Gong, The
- Family Relations in Contemporary China
- Fiction and Prose, Modern Chinese
- Film, Chinese Language
- Financial Sector, The
- Folklore and Popular Culture
- Foreign Direct Investment in China
- Gender Issues in Traditional China
- Great Leap Forward and the Famine, The
- Guomindang (1912-1949)
- Health Care System, The
- Heritage Management
- Hukou (Household Registration) System, The
- Human Origins in China
- Human Rights in China
- Imperialism and China, c. 1800-1949
- Intellectual Trends in Late Imperial China
- Islam in China
- Journalism and the Press
- Landscape Painting
- Language, The Ancient Chinese
- Language Variation in China
- Late Imperial Economy, 960-1895
- Law, Traditional Chinese
- Li Bai and Du Fu
- Liang Qichao
- Literature Post-Mao, Chinese
- Literature, Pre-Ming Narrative
- Local Elites in Ming-Qing China
- Management Style in "Chinese Capitalism"
- Mao Zedong
- Marketing System in Pre-Modern China, The
- Material Culture
- May Fourth Movement
- Media Representation of Contemporary China, International
- Medicine, Traditional Chinese
- Medieval Economic Revolution
- Middle Period China
- Migration Under Economic Reform
- Ming Dynasty
- Ming-Qing Fiction
- Modern Chinese Drama
- Needham Question, The
- Neolithic Cultures in China
- New Social Classes, 1895-1949
- One Country, Two Systems
- Opium Trade
- Orientalism, China and
- Poetics, Chinese-Western Comparative
- Poetry, Early Medieval
- Poetry, Traditional Chinese
- Political Dissent
- Political Thought, Modern Chinese
- Population Dynamics in Pre-Modern China
- Population Structure and Dynamics since 1949
- Poverty and Living Standards since 1949
- Printing and Book Culture
- Prose, Traditional
- Qing Dynasty up to 1840
- Regional and Global Security, China and
- Religion, Ancient Chinese
- Renminbi, The
- Republican China, 1911-1949
- Revolutionary Literature under Mao
- Rural Society in Contemporary China
- School of Names
- Sino-Japanese Relations Since 1945
- Social Welfare in China
- Su Shi (Su Dongpo)
- Sun Yat-sen and the 1911 Revolution
- Taiping Civil War
- Taiwanese Democracy
- Television, Chinese
- Terracotta Warriors, The
- Texts in Pre-Modern East and South-East Asia, Chinese
- Township and Village Enterprises
- Traditional Historiography
- Tribute System, The
- United States-China Relations, 1949-present
- Urban Change and Modernity
- Yan'an and the Revolutionary Base Areas
- Yuan Dynasty