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Sunday, August 22, 2004

BBC > China celebrates Deng centenary

China has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Deng Xiaoping, its late supreme leader.
For most Chinese, Deng was the man who set the country on a pragmatic reformist course after decades of political upheaval.

At an official ceremony President Hu Jintao praised Deng as a statesman driven by a passion for his people.

He was also the man who ultimately authorised troops to fire on democracy demonstrators in Beijing in 1989.

President Hu spoke as a giant portrait of Deng smiled down on hundreds of gathered officials.

"We are here to commemorate him for his great achievements in national independence, people's liberation, national prosperity," Mr Hu said.


Let some people get rich first
Deng saying on reform


He praised Deng's determination to maintain a tight grip on the country despite what he referred to as "political upheavals".
The BBC's Francis Markus in Beijing says the argument used during the time of the Tiananmen protests and which is repeated often by Chinese leaders now is that the need for stability is paramount in such a vast country.

Our correspondent adds that although Mao Zedong might have been known as the Great Helmsman, Deng is seen as the architect of China's economic reforms.

The Deng reforms first freed agriculture from the shackles of collectivism.

"It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mouse," was one of his key slogans.

Fanfares and tension

Deng opened up foreign trade and set the stage for the rapid development of China's coastal regions in the hope of kick-starting the whole economy.

"Let some people get rich first," said Deng.

Many Chinese feel that his successor, Jiang Zemin, took that doctrine to an extreme, forcing the current leadership to try to address a growing wealth gap.

A flurry of commemorative material was advertised on state television and on sale across the country.

Stamps and books have been published, a new film made, a symphony performed and huge posters have been hung along streets.

Some analysts believe the fanfare with which Deng's centenary is being celebrated may highlight tensions between China's present leaders and ex-President Jiang, who remains in charge of the army and a powerful figure behind the scenes.

There have been pointed references to the fact Mr Deng surrendered all his official positions when he retired.

Deng died in 1997 just months before the UK returned Hong Kong to China.

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