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Event Held in Memory of Mao Tse-Tung’s Successor, Deng Xiaopeng; Drench, Shaw, Perry, Yin ’07 and Zhan ’08 on Panel

About 40 students and faculty met on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the life and policies of Deng Xiaopeng, China’s leader after Mao Tse Tung. The event came shortly after the 10-year anniversary of Xiaopeng’s death in 1997. The event, co-sponsored by the History Department, the Andover Economics Project and the International Club, offered a panel discussion with three faculty members and two students. Faculty members present were Head of the History and Social Science Department Peter Drench; Carroll Perry, History and Social Science Instructor; Christopher Shaw, Instructor in History. The two students on the panel were Henry Yin ’07 and Mike Zhan ’08. “Henry approached all of us and pulled together all of the resources from these three organizations,” said Shaw. “We felt this was a good topic, given that it’s Chinese New Year and the recent 10-year anniversary of his death has just passed.” Deng Xiaopeng was a member of the Communist Party of China who served as the head of state following the death of Mao Tse Tung. He led the country unofficially from 1974 to 1992, and is credited with the modernization of China through sweeping economic policy reforms. “He changed 2000 years of feudal society in 10 years,” said Yin. “Without Deng, I probably wouldn’t have been able to come here. Mao probably would have seen [Andover] as a capitalist institution.” Dr. Shaw spoke on Mao’s historic meeting in 1972 with President Richard Nixon, who arrived in China on the heels of a historic American delegation. “The meeting was so historic because Nixon couldn’t have gone if he was aware of the atrocities Mao had committed,” said Shaw. Shaw also discussed Mao’s initiatives, like the 1958-61 Great Leap Forward, an attempt to speed up the industrialization progress, and the somewhat less successful Cultural Revolution. “It was an anti-intellectual campaign to make agriculture preeminent and to destroy urban capitalism,” said Dr. Shaw. Mr. Perry then covered the economic and political effects of Deng’s policies. He said, “When I was studying developmental economics, my professor told me that there were only two countries in the world with absolutely no hope for growth: Haiti and China.” He discussed Deng’s initiative toward the Chinese farmers, which made up 80% of the nation’s population. Under Mao, the system of collective agriculture required farmers to deliver all of their produce. Mr. Perry also explained the growth of “town-and village” businesses, which, after being released by Deng from government control, grew quickly. “They found their feet at that time. . . all those little companies hired the people from the farm exodus without having to move to a big city.” He also discussed the growth of the Chinese savings rate under Deng, which allowed the economy’s small businesses to grow explosively. Deng also established export-processing zones, where raw materials could be imported duty-free. Mr. Perry then spoke of the momentum of the Chinese economy established under Deng. He said, “The Chinese economy will clearly pass that of the U.S.A. rather shortly, and by the middle of the century will be larger than Japan, the United States, and Europe, by pure brute size.” Zhan ’08 drew on experiences from China’s Shenzen Province, where he resides. “It became Deng’s pet for capitalism,” he said. He provided statistics, saying that Shenzen’s economy has grown 28% yearly since 1980 and that 30% of the world’s shoes and most iPods are manufactured there. Mr. Drench compared Shenzen to the Merrimack Valley of the past, a rapidly growing and heavily industrialized locale. Zhan also compared Shenzen to the United States, saying that the most talented Chinese concentrate in that place. “It’s the epitome of Chinese economic development, and we’re really indebted to Deng Xiaopeng,” he said. Mr. Drench covered both the strong points of Deng’s rule and the Tiananmen Square incidents of 1989, arguably the darkest phases of his time in power. “The fast track to becoming a legend in world history is to live in interesting times, as the Chinese say, which usually means fighting in a war,” said Mr. Drench. He then asked the audience to list the most memorable leaders of the twentieth century. “I like to think of him as one of the century’s greatest survivors. Despite all the turmoil in China, he lived to be 93 years old. He truly outlasted his opposition,” said Mr. Drench.