‘Two Faces’ of Deng Xiaoping

In the third part of a series on , Bao Tong writes about . From RFA:

In October 1984, a group of university students spontaneously unfurled a banner that read “Hello Xiaoping” and marched in an ebullient mood towards Tiananmen Square. This was an expression of the public mood. Five years later, countless students coralled in their dormitory buildings smashed “little bottles” (xiaoping) in an expression of their indescribable anger and grief. This, too, was an expression of the public mood. Both expressions gave voice to the two-faced nature of Deng Xiaoping.

Deng’s two-sidedness was like a pendulum. One minute he wanted reforms, the next he was resolutely upholding the four basic principles of socialism. One minute he wanted to escape from a political dead end, the next he had returned to it.

Deng was like that. You could criticize him for logical inconsistency, but you couldn’t say he said one thing and did another. Both his words and his deeds were in earnest. He was a genuine supporter of reforms, and yet also a staunch protecter of the very things we were supposed to be reforming.

Read an earlier essay in the series here. On the Time China blog, Austin Ramzy recalls meeting Bao and comments on his latest essay.


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