Deng became a member of the Chinese Communist party while studying in France (1920–25). A veteran of the long march, he joined the Party Central Committee in 1945. Called to Beijing as deputy premier (1952), he rose rapidly, joining the Politburo Standing Committee in 1956. A pragmatist, he worked with Liu Shaoqi after the Great Leap Forward to restore the economy. In the Cultural Revolution he was attacked as the “Number Two Capitalist Roader” after Liu. Purged, he was sent to work in a tractor factory (1966). Reinstated by Zhou Enlai as deputy premier (1973), he took over the administration when Zhou fell ill, eagerly implementing Zhou's “Four Modernizations.” After Zhou's death in 1976, Deng was again purged.
In 1977 he again became deputy premier, as well as vice chairman of the party, and later (1979) visited the United States to seek closer ties. For most of the 1980s he served as head of the party and government military commissions and the newly created party Central Advisory Commission. Although not holding any of the highest ranking official posts, Deng became the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. In 1981 Deng strengthened his position in China by replacing Hua Guofeng as Communist party chairman with his own protégé, Hu Yaobang. When Hu was forced from power, Zhao Ziyang, another Deng protégé, became party leader, and later when Zhao was ousted, a third Deng associate, Jiang Zemin, replaced Zhao. Deng sought to loosen government control of the economy in order to promote development while insisting on tight party control of the government and politics. He resigned from his last party post in 1989, designating Jiang Zemin his successor, after supporting the use of military force to suppress the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
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