Re­mem­ber­ing Deng’s dream

For­mer leader re­called as a vi­sion­ary who changed China for­ever

China Daily European Weekly - - COVER STORY - By AN­DREW MOODY an­drew­[email protected]­

For­mer Chi­nese leader Deng Xiaop­ing was a vi­sion­ary who al­ways saw the long-term po­ten­tial of his ini­tia­tive, ac­cord­ing to his for­mer in­ter­preter.

Vic­tor Gao, who worked for Deng in the 1980s, re­calls him telling the Ja­panese prime min­is­ter, Masayoshi Ohira, that Chi­nese peo­ple would have xiao kang or a com­fort­able liv­ing by 2025.

“Deng used to look ahead like this. He used to think of the world in terms of the next 10 years, the end of the 20th cen­tury, and the first quar­ter and then the mid­dle of the 21st Cen­tury. No politi­cian in a Western democ­racy would think in these terms. That is not their busi­ness. They only care about the next elec­tion,” he says.

Gao, now chair­man of the China En­ergy Se­cu­rity In­sti­tute, a Bei­jing­based think tank, be­lieves Deng was the right man at the right time to de­liver the re­form that China needed.

“Deng was both unique to the chal­lenge and the op­por­tu­nity and China to­day bears a huge fin­ger­print of his,” he adds.

An­other with per­sonal rec­ol­lec­tions of Deng is Pas­cal Lamy, for­mer di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, who was in­volved in China’s ne­go­ti­a­tions to join the trade rules body in 2001.

At the time of re­form and openingup in the 1978, Lamy was a French civil ser­vant, but he met with Deng at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple when he came to China for the first time in 1986 as chief of staff of the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Jac­ques Delors.

“It was quite im­pres­sive for a young guy like my­self. He was very witty and smok­ing a lot,” he laughed.

Lamy, who has just been ap­pointed a dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor of CEIBS, the Shang­hai-based in­ter­na­tional busi­ness school, says re­form and open­ing-up was clearly a land­mark event.

“The West re­gards this as ma­jor shift. We know that in Chi­nese his­tory we have pe­ri­ods of open­ing and

pe­ri­ods of clos­ing, and that was a real shift,” he says.

This view is shared by one of his bi­og­ra­phers, Ezra Vo­gel, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of so­cial sciences at Har­vard Univer­sity.

“Deng … ful­filled the mis­sion that had eluded China’s lead­ers for 150 years: He and his col­leagues had found a way to en­rich the Chi­nese peo­ple and strengthen the coun­try,” he wrote in Deng Xiaop­ing and the

Trans­for­ma­tion of China, re­garded as one of the ma­jor books about Deng, pub­lished in 2011.

“But in the process of achiev­ing the goal, Deng presided over a fun­da­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion of China it­self — the na­ture of its re­la­tion­ship with the out­side world, its gover­nance sys­tem and its so­ci­ety. … The struc­tural changes that took place un­der Deng’s lead­er­ship rank among the most ba­sic changes since the Chi­nese em­pire took shape dur­ing the Han Dy­nasty over two mil­len­nia ago,” Vo­gel said.

Gao, a for­mer China pol­icy ad­viser at the Hong Kong Se­cu­ri­ties and Fu­tures Com­mis­sion and who has held a num­ber of se­nior bank­ing po­si­tions, has many per­sonal rec­ol­lec­tions of Deng.

“He was a man of very few words, but de­spite be­ing of diminu­tive stature had a great pres­ence when he walked into a room,” he re­calls.

He be­lieves one of Deng’s most im­por­tant de­ci­sions was to re­duce the size of the mil­i­tary by a mil­lion sol­diers in the 1980s and to fo­cus re­sources on the econ­omy.

“Deng took the view that World War III was not go­ing to hap­pen to­mor­row and rather than wast­ing re­sources he wanted to put ev­ery­thing into the bas­ket to make China grow and not worry about ar­ma­ments,” Gao says.

He was also not some­one to get “bogged down in de­tail”, which held him in good stead when deal­ing with the com­plex­i­ties of re­form and open­ing-up.

“He would not go down into the de­tails, which is what some func­tionar­ies would do. He would not care to lift brick or mor­tar but would al­ways look at the top of the moun­tain — into the dis­tant fu­ture,” Gao says.

Gao also be­lieves what drove Deng, who was 74 when he launched re­form and open­ing-up, was a sense of his own mor­tal­ity.

“In the 1980s Deng al­ready had an im­mi­nent sense of his im­pend­ing death (he died in 1997). He didn’t pro­cras­ti­nate and push things off to an­other day. He felt we could no longer waste our time. This sense of ur­gency was very im­por­tant and is what drove him and the ini­tia­tive for­ward.”

“Deng was both unique to the chal­lenge and the op­por­tu­nity and China to­day bears a huge fin­ger­print of his.” VIC­TOR GAO for­mer in­ter­preter for Deng Xiaop­ing and now chair­man of the China En­ergy Se­cu­rity In­sti­tute, a Bei­jing-based think tank

Vic­tor Gao, for­mer in­ter­preter for Deng Xiaop­ing and now chair­man of the China En­ergy Se­cu­rity In­sti­tute, a Bei­jing-based think tank


Pas­cal Lamy, for­mer di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the WTO

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