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Perhaps no one in the twentieth century had a greater long-term impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar of contemporary East Asian history and culture is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the many contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China's boldest strategist.
Once described by Mao Zedong as a "needle inside a ball of cotton," Deng was the pragmatic yet disciplined driving force behind China's radical transformation in the late twentieth century. He confronted the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, dissolved Mao's cult of personality, and loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted China's growth. Obsessed with modernization and technology, Deng opened trade relations with the West, which lifted hundreds of millions of his countrymen out of poverty. Yet at the same time he answered to his authoritarian roots, most notably when he ordered the crackdown in June 1989 at Tiananmen Square.
Deng's youthful commitment to the Communist Party was cemented in Paris in the early 1920s, among a group of Chinese student-workers that also included Zhou Enlai. Deng returned home in 1927 to join the Chinese Revolution on the ground floor. In the fifty years of his tumultuous rise to power, he endured accusations, purges, and even exile before becoming China's preeminent leader from 1978 to 1989 and again in 1992. When he reached the top, Deng saw an opportunity to creatively destroy much of the economic system he had helped build for five decades as a loyal follower of Mao-and he did not hesitate.
[An] impressive and exhaustively researched biography...Vogel reminds readers that it was under this pragmatic politician's watch that the party made three moves that helped it outlast so many other Leninist organizations.
— Jeffrey Wasserstrom
From arguably the most important scholar of East Asia, this is an important book on the force behind China's transformation in the late twentieth century, whose full fruits are visible only today. Deng ordered the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, but he was also the person most responsible for modernizing China and opening it to trade with the West. Again and again he survived threatening challenges in the Chinese political bureaucracy, to emerge at the top in the late 1970s. His role in subverting Chinese orthodoxy from the inside is comparable to that of Gorbachev with respect to the Soviet Union—and he deserves sustained attention such as this landmark book offers.
— Anis Shivani
A masterful new history of China's reform era. It pieces together from interviews and memoirs perhaps the clearest account so far of the revolution that turned China from a totalitarian backwater led by one of the monsters of the 20th century into the power it has become today...Vogel has a monumental story to tell. His main argument is that Deng deserves a central place in the pantheon of 20th-century leaders. For he not only launched China's market-oriented economic reforms but also accomplished something that had eluded Chinese leaders for almost two centuries: the transformation of the world's oldest civilization into a modern nation...[An] illuminating book.
— John Pomfret
This is the most ambitious biography of Deng Xiaoping by a western scholar so far. Drawing on numerous Chinese sources, including the Deng family, it tells the story of a man who, the author says, may have had more impact on world history than anyone else in the 20th century...This is a monumental work, carried out in the author's retirement and intended to cap a distinguished career in Asian studies. His diligent use of official papers and his privileged access to members of the Chinese Communist elite make this biography of Deng Xiaoping the most complete we are likely to have under the present ruling order.
— Michael Sheridan
Ezra Vogel's encyclopedic Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China is the most exhaustive English retelling of Deng's life. Vogel, an emeritus professor at Harvard, seems to have interviewed or found the memoirs of nearly every person who spoke with Deng, and has painstakingly re-created a detailed and intimate chronology of Deng's roller-coaster career.
— Joshua Kurlantzick
If anybody still nurtures the illusion that Deng was a closet liberal, this book will bring them back to reality. For all the changes he championed and the vicissitudes of his life, the diminutive, blunt Deng has received much less biographical attention than Mao, which makes Ezra Vogel's huge account particularly welcome. The product of 10 years of work by a leading China scholar, it is essential reading for anybody who wants to understand the evolution of China to the status it occupies today. It offers an enormous compendium of material about the lifelong Communist whose story, even more than that of Mao, reflects the dramatically varying fortunes of his nation in the 20th century...Vogel is an admiring biographer who presents a treasure trove of new information that will delight modern China scholars for years to come.
— Jonathan Fenby
Deng led a long and remarkable life, packed with drama and global significance, one that deserves to be dissected in detail. So we must be thankful to Harvard professor Ezra Vogel for devoting a large chunk of his academic career to compiling a prodigious biography, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, the most ambitious account of the man so far. In writing this volume, Vogel has done an enormous amount of work. He appears to have absorbed the documents from every single Chinese Communist Party plenum since 1921...There have been several Deng biographies before this...but Vogel's can be regarded as the most comprehensive and informative of the lot...There's no question that Vogel has gone farther than anyone else to date in telling Deng's story. For that he is to be applauded; there is a whole hoard of valuable material here that we probably would not have gained otherwise.
— Christian Caryl
The big picture is the key to this book. Those hoping for hidden secrets and untold stories about Deng in Vogel's book will be disappointed. Comprehensive as it is, the book is not an expose. But it does ring with authority. The Harvard professor spent most of the 10 years lining up interviews with people who had first-hand experience of Deng. In the end he spoke to dozens, if not a hundred, of people who knew something about the man...As a result, his depiction of Deng is rich, balanced and colorful. Vogel portrays a Deng who is determined, resourceful, at times uncompromising and difficult, but always pragmatic...This is where the strength of Vogel's book lies. It is all about the grand historic view. And that is fitting: out of all of Deng's amazing qualities, it is his grasp of a broad perspective and his keen sense of history that enabled him to achieve what so many had deemed impossible.
— Chow Chung-yan
A virtue of Vogel's book is that it collects and organizes a huge amount of material on the struggles within the elite power circles in China over several decades. In these accounts we learn how Deng tried to protect his allies and how he sought to undermine his enemies; he fell, rose, fell again, then rose again to the pinnacle position in the second generation of the Communist dynasty. Vogel's materials will be very useful to students of elite power struggles in China.
— Fang Lizhi
Deng was perhaps the most intriguing leader that I met while traveling with Mr. Blumenthal and President Jimmy Carter. I had to wait another 30 years, however, before a definitive biography would be written about Deng, arguably the most globally transformational leader of the 20th century. This year Ezra Vogel delivered it with Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China.
— Richard W. Fisher
Vogel has gone to enormous lengths to document his subject...Vogel's painstaking research provides plenty of fascinating detail. The description of the period after Tiananmen, for example—when the octogenarian was forced to call on a lifetime's accumulated political wiles to defeat an attempt by conservatives to almost completely reverse his reforms—is eye-opening. The pages in which Deng effectively threatens to have then Communist Party Secretary Jiang Zemin dismissed unless he throws his support behind renewing the reform drive are very nearly worth the price of the book alone...On the ways through which Deng set about the enormous task of rebuilding the gutted economy, shattered by decades of turmoil under Mao Zedong, Vogel is exhaustive.
— Simon Elegant
Deng [is] a fit subject for a weighty, probing and judicious biography, which is just what Ezra F. Vogel has produced...Vogel is the master of this complex material. He had access to many who knew and worked with Deng, including Jiang Zemin. Deng selected him as Party leader in 1989 to succeed Zhao Ziyang, who had been sacked and disgraced because of his opposition to the use of force in Tiananmen Square. Vogel also spoke to two of Deng's children. The documentary sources are copious and, in terms of access to material, this study is unlikely to be bettered until the Party opens its most sensitive archives—which could be a long wait. It is hard to disagree with much of what Vogel writes and there is much to admire, particularly his judicious contextualization of Deng's motives.
— Graham Hutchings
In an authoritative biography of Deng, Harvard sociologist Ezra F. Vogel, a renowned specialist on China and Japan who rose to international prominence in 1979 with the publication of Japan as Number One: Lessons for America, has attempted the difficult task of providing a comprehensive look at the experiences and influences that shaped this remarkable individual. He has succeeded superbly...Vogel's book provides extensive insights into how Deng was able to use his experience, his network of associations among China's aging revolutionaries, and the force of his personality to direct China's course, all while allowing others to hold the top government and party titles...For those of us who as U.S. government officials participated in or monitored many of the developments in China and in the bilateral relationship Vogel describes, he has illuminated events in ways that would have been invaluable to us had we had such a clear picture at the time. The transformation of China that Deng set in motion is likely to confront the United States with its most significant foreign-policy challenge over the next several decades. We are fortunate indeed that Vogel has written this timely and highly informative biography of Deng Xiaoping, which provides a wealth of insights into one of history's great leaders.
— J. Stapleton Roy
[An] exhaustive biography...Vogel's book is an encyclopedic look at Deng's career.
— Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore
Deng Xiaoping is one of the most influential men in modern history and here his dramatic story, one intertwined with elite intrigues in the Chinese Communist Party, is recounted in detail by one of the most eminent scholars of Asia...Regarding the debate over whether Deng was more despot than reformer, Ezra Vogel emphasizes the successful consequences of his economic reforms, but does not shy from criticizing his failures. The portrait that emerges is of a visionary authoritarian who helped his nation overcome the self-inflicted wounds of Mao Zedong and achieve enormous economic advances.
— Jeff Kingston
This monumental book, not so much biography as political history, is overdue.
— Rowan Callick
One of the virtues of Vogel's analysis is that he understands the thinking of Deng's rivals as well as he does Deng's own...Deng was infatuated with everything he viewed as modern, and wanted China to have it all. By entering into Deng's vision, Vogel helps readers see how the person who forged the world's most successful example of modernizing authoritarianism believed that such a combination would work.
— Andrew J. Nathan
As one of the foremost scholars of modern China, Vogel is an appropriate authority to pen such a thorough account of Deng Xiaoping's tumultuous journey from political exile to paramount leader of China. A detailed study into Deng's dedication to the Chinese establishment of the People's Republic, to his reemergence as unrivaled decision-maker of the Chinese people, the book details how Deng's policies continue to shape the nation, and how it will most likely require a number of generations before scholars can fully appreciate his impact. In capturing the most turbulent period in the modern 20th century in this 928-page tome, Vogel contributes an important piece to the historiography of Chinese history.
— A. Cho
[A] masterful biography.
— Arun Maira
Vogel, one of the world's preeminent Asia scholars, has produced the most comprehensive and authoritative account of Deng's career as a revolutionary, party leader, and architect of China's reform. Meticulously researched and highly readable, the book is not a typical biography. It does not dwell much on Deng's personal life. Instead, the focus of the book is Deng's unusual career trajectory, his unique style of rule, and the strategic choices he made during and after the Cultural Revolution...This book should be read by anyone who wants to understand the domestic and international dynamics that have led to China's rise as a great power.
— Yanzhong Huang
Map: China in the 1980 ix
Preface: In Search of Deng xi
Introduction: The Man and His Mission 1
1 From Revolutionary to Builder to Reformer, 1904-1969 15
Deng's Tortuous Road to the Top, 1969-1977
2 Banishment and Return, 1969-1974 49
3 Bringing Order under Mao, 1974-1975 91
4 Looking Forward under Mao, 1975 120
5 Sidelined as the Mao Era Ends, 1976 157
6 Return under Hua, 1977-1978 184
Creating the Deng Era, 1978-1980
7 Three Turning Points, 1978 217
8 Setting the Limits of Freedom, 1978-1979 249
9 The Soviet-Vietnamese Threat, 1978-1979 266
10 Opening to Japan, 1978 294
11 Opening to the United States, 1978-1979 311
12 Launching the Deng Administration, 1979-1980 349
The Deng Era, 1978-1989
13 Deng's Art of Governing 377
14 Experiments in Guangdong and Fujian, 1979-1984 394
15 Economic Readjustment and Rural Reform, 1978-1982 423
16 Accelerating Economic Growth and Opening, 1982-1989 450
17 One Country, Two Systems: Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet 477
18 The Military: Preparing for Modernization 523
19 The Ebb and Flow of Politics 553
Challenges to the Deng Era, 1989-1992
20 Beijing Spring, April 15-May 17, 1989 595
21 The Tiananmen Tragedy, May 17-June4, 1989 616
22 Standing Firm, 1989-1992 640
23 Deng's Finale: The Southern journey, 1992 664
Deng's Place in History
24 China Transformed 693
Key People in the Deng Era 717
Chinese Communist Party Congresses and Plenums, 1956?1992 747
Posted January 5, 2014
I decided to purchase the book after attending a lecture by the author. I am very impressed by the detailed data gathering and unbiased analysis of Deng''s life. I highly recommend this book to anyone wants to know tghe future direction of China.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2013
Posted November 29, 2011
excellent gives you insight that was never before given. Anyone that loves history or wants to know how China has become a dominate world player in the last 30+ years... than this book is a must read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 26, 2011
Mr. Vogel's books is quite dense, clocking in at over 700 pages, but it's very well-written and easy to read. It is about Deng Xiaoping but also about the birth (or rebirth) of a sleeping giant. Deng is a consummate politician who knew when to hold and when to fold and who adroitly used his personal power base to establish an enduring governmental structure while avoiding the temptation to be another charismatic dictator. An extraordinary pragmatist, Deng Xiaoping made some missteps (e.g. Tiananmen Square), but one cannot deny that he was a giant who shaped China into what it is today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2011
Deng was a giant of a man. Not in size but in stature. He was the man who ensured China grew to be a economic power house within 20 years after his death. What is remarkable is that he only became paramount leader after he was released from exile imposed during the Cultural Revolution. So he started ruling China at the ripe age of 73.
This just released 700 page biography is a very readable book. It is written in a chronological manner. Not much is known of Deng's life as his modus operandi is not to leave notes but to commit all records to memory. This was his means to stay alive.
I highly recommend this book as the previous biography by Richard Evans was published way back in 1994.
Posted December 6, 2011
No text was provided for this review.