Often referred to simply as
"Comrade Xiaoping", Deng Xiaoping is revered in China as a leader who changed
the course of the world by steering the country's class-orientated revolutionary
struggle into tangible economic development.
A giant billboard showing former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping
at a bus station in Guangan, in China's southwestern province of Sichuan.
Ten years after his death Xiaoping is still revered, albeit quietly, as
the man who truly awakened the sleeping giant that was China.
considered as "the general architect of China's economic reform and socialist
modernization", Deng Xiaoping modestly shied away the cult of personality that
was all too often enjoyed by his predecessor Mao Zedong.
Deng died from a lung infection and Parkinson's disease on Feb. 19, 1997, at
the age of 92. Even ten years after his death, many of his countrymen still
adore him as a saint.
"I miss Grandpa Deng a lot," said Feng Daishu while fertilizing lettuce in
his kale yard in the outskirts of Chengdu, in Deng's home province of Sichuan.
Without Deng's "opening-up" policy, the 64-year-old vegetable farmer said
that he could have ended up becoming homeless, begging in the street.
"When he passed away, I almost cried my heart out," Feng said. "I felt I had
lost a family member."
Indeed, before economic reforms were carried out in 1978, Feng was as poor as
a church mouse. Feng remembered how he barely had some pennies to rub together.
"I had to borrow money in order to buy a new bucket," he said. "It cost only two
Deng's reforms replaced Chairman Mao's "collectivization" with the
privatization of farmland, giving the land confiscated during the "Great Leap
Forward" in the 1950s back to the farmers. As long as they regularly delivered a
proportion of staple crops to the government, the farmers were free to grow
whatever crops they wanted.
"Now my family of three can make a comfortable living on our kale yard. We
earned more than 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) last year," Feng said, laughing from
cheek to cheek.
Feng holds Deng in high esteem, lamenting the 10th anniversary of his death
he remarked. "Grandpa Deng made our rice bowl full, and pockets deep as well. He
bailed us farmers out from poverty."
"It's really sad he's gone," he said. "We are enjoying the rice he helped us
grow. He's the savior of the farmers."
Without a doubt, Deng was a pragmatic leader with a vision of a modern
Cai Jinwei, a well-established cinema-photographer, noted that Mao saved
China once by founding the People's Republic of China in1949 and overthrowing
imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic-capitalism.
A veteran communist at the age of 79, Cai commented that during Mao's era,
however, people were living a simple life, in part because Mao's rigid political
ideology dragged the country into numerous political movements. "At the time,
you might have money, but you couldn't get what you needed or wanted."
"Back then," he recalled, having a small plate of peanut on your dinner table
was a wild wish. You had to wait till the Spring Festival," he said. "Then you
could get a quarter of a kilo with a food coupon from the government."