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Deng Xiaoping: Still in the shadows

UK Only Article: 
standard article

Issue: 

The right to die

Fly Title: 

Deng Xiaoping

Rubric: 

China’s former leader awaits a defining autobiography

Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life.By Alexander Pantsov and Steven Levine.Oxford University Press; 610 pages; $34.95 and £22.99.
BIOGRAPHERS of Communist-era leaders in China face enormous challenges. Since Mao Zedong took control of the country in 1949 its most powerful figures have hardly ever given interviews to journalists. Those who have lived or worked closely with these politicians tend either to sing their praises, condemn them out of hand (usually from the safety of exile) or, in most cases, keep quiet. Official policy documents, even secret ones, are often coloured by the biases of their drafters, whose aim may be to distort or exaggerate a leader’s preferences in order to promote the interests of a faction. A plethora of rumour clouds the picture further.

Writing about the life of Deng Xiaoping is one of the toughest challenges of all. For stretches of his career Deng was among Mao’s closest henchmen; …

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