Deng Xiaoping

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Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平)

Most important member of the so-called "second generation" in the Communist Party of China.

Deng was an old fellow combatant of Mao Zedong, who made him General Secretary of the Communist Party soon after he had taken over political power in 1949. During the Cultural Revolution, Deng fell out of favor and had to retire from his offices, but returned in 1974. A second downfall in 1976 didn't prevent him from a second return soon after Mao's death in the same year. Mao's successor Hua Guofeng not only pardoned him, but even retired in favor of Deng in 1980. Until the mid-1990's, Deng was the most influential Chinese leader although he was without official title for most of the period. He initiated the turning away from strict socialism towards a free-enterprise oriented economy. His most famous quotation in this context is "It is glorious to be rich." At the same time, he advocated strengthening the Chinese Communist Party by regularization of procedure. He is also held responsible, however, for dispatching troops against the demonstrating students on Tiananmen Square in 1989, as well as numerous other purges and crackdowns leading to the deaths of thousands of people.

According to journalist Jim Rohwer, "the Dengist reforms of 1979-94 brought about probably the biggest single improvement in human welfare anywhere at any time." This improvement was due to the fact that the reforms effected hundreds of millions of people, and lifted tens of millions of people out of absolute poverty.

He died in 1997.