Recently, I've been reading Deng Xiaoping and the transformation of China by Ezra Vogel. I still have not finished reading this book, but have read enough to be riveted by its content and amazed by Deng and other important leaders of his time. Many of the people mentioned in the book like Deng, Mao, Zhou Enlai, Nixon, Kissinger and Brzezinski are larger than life characters to me. Not only are they truly impressive human beings with knowledge and leadership qualities, but they are also masters at diplomacy and maneuvering in foreign relations. Compared to leaders of that era, the current Chinese leaderships are a group of dull, gutless technocrats who continually get out-maneuvered in the international arena by their American counterpart. For those who want a thorough understanding of China, I think this book is a must read. Many of the competing forces in the communist leadership mentioned in the book are still there today in the current Chinese leadership.
The book spent a lot of time talking about the two leaders (Mao and Deng) who have most profoundly affected China since the communist party took over. I've always thought of Mao and Deng to both be incredibly ruthless people with strong leadership qualities. Those beliefs have been more or less confirmed reading this book. This book confirmed to me that Mao was extremely egotistical and used his power for self-promotion and the promotion of his own brand insane economic and political model. His ruthlessness brought poverty and backwardness to China as well as the deaths and punishment of everyone around him who dared questioning him. By contrast, Deng used his ruthlessness not for his own gains, but rather for improvements in the life of Chinese people and continued strength of the communist party. Deng believed strongly that only peace, unity and political stability behind the rule of communist party can lead to the prosperity and strengthening of China. He believed extremely strongly that China needed centralized powers to achieve its end goals. He was willing to use his powers to toss away/humiliate leaders like Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang and Hua Guofeng, crush student protest and take heavy casualties in war against Vietnam. He did all of this because he believed those things are needed to achieve the end goals of prosperous and strong China. He had been purged 3 times in life (humiliated many more times) and his son became crippled during one of those purge. Those events really hardened him to the point where he seemed to believe that individuals or minority group suffering is okay as long as the majority of country gains. These ideals that Deng instilled in his reign seem to still be prevalent in China now. I will talk about everything in detail later, but I want people to know that Deng is not a warm fuzzy leader with Western ideals of democracy and liberty nor is he a brutal dictator like Mao, Stalin or Qaddafi. He is a strongly convicted and committed reformer willing to do whatever is necessary to bring the changes that he thinks are needed to fix China. He was very effective in leading China out of poverty and irrelevance. Since his departure from leadership, the past 2 generations of leaders have only lived off the changes that he brought.