Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

Ezra F. Vogel. Harvard/Belknap, $39.95 (874p) ISBN 978-0-674-05544-5
This intensely researched doorstop delivers a step-by-step political biography of the man who gets most of the credit for China's spectacular rise to an economic juggernaut. Vogel (Japan as Number One; Lessons for America) recounts how Deng (1904–1997), a leading figure from the 1950s on, was banished when his preference for practicality over class struggle angered Mao Zedong during the disastrous 1969–1975 Cultural Revolution. Returning to power after Mao's 1976 death, he eliminated the anti-intellectualism and chaotic policy swings that characterized Mao's rule while opening the nation to Western ideas. The result was China's emergence as the world's most dynamic economy, with a free market but still with a disturbing absence of political freedom (he gives a nuanced analysis of the Tiananmen Square massacres). Vogel, emeritus Harvard history professor and former director of its Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, draws on massive Chinese scholarship, but Chinese historians treat their great men respectfully, so the book delivers a relentless stream of itineraries, meetings, political debates, speeches, and policies but few personal details. Scholars will value it, but average readers will find more minutiae than they can tolerate. 40 b&w illus.; 1 map. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 876 pages - 978-0-674-72586-7
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