Ezra Vogel signs a copy of his Deng Xiaoping biography on Jan. 18. (Photo/CNS)
If Deng Xiaoping were alive today, he would no doubt still be implementing daring reforms in China, says Harvard University professor Ezra Vogel, whose Chinese version of his award-winning biography of the former Communist Party leader hit Chinese booksellers across the country on Friday.
Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, which won Canada's 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize, took the 82-year-old professor 10 years to write and portrays Deng as a pragmatic and farsighted manager who played an instrumental role in China's reforms and opening up over the last three decades. The Chinese version's first run of 500,000 copies have reportedly all been snatched up by retailers and a second run of 300,000 copies is already in the works.
In an interview with the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, Vogel, who is fluent in Chinese, described Deng as a "general manager." As China's paramount leader between 1978 and 1992, Deng is someone who would never admit he made a mistake once a decision has been made because it would risk weakening his power, Vogel said.
Vogel believes Mao Zedong's path of "continuous revolution" is no longer useful to China and that Deng's chosen path of economic and political reforms is the correct direction for the country. If Deng, who passed away in 1997, were still alive today, he would no doubt be still very daring in promoting reforms and China's opening up, Vogel added.
Deng's contribution to China is giving the country and the Communist Party a better set of organizational systems, Vogel said, noting that Deng brought an end to the lifelong tenures of party leaders and instilled collective decision-making through a leadership team.
Deng, who also placed a heavy emphasis on opening China up to the rest of the world, has a firm understanding of Western culture and diplomatic relations, and is a key contributor to China's economic development and its relations with Japan and the US, Vogel said.
When asked by reporters why a foreigner was able to write such an insightful book on Deng and China's development, Vogel said it is because Chinese professors are "too busy" teaching classes and writing papers. American academics have a lot less pressure and a lot more time, he said.
Vogel, who has studied China for half a century, said he initially only wanted to be an expert on American society until another academic told him that he would have to live overseas for a few years to truly understand America. Not a lot of Chinese academics have had such an opportunity to observe their own country from afar, he said.
Deng Xiaoping 鄧小平
Mao Zedong 毛澤東