Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997)
Originally known as Deng Xiansheng and his school name Deng Xixian, Deng Xiaoping was born on 22
August 1904 in Guang'an County, Sichuan Province. In 1920, Deng left
for studies in France. His six-year stay in France proved to be a turning point in his life. He met
Zhou Enlai and other founders of the Communist Youth League in Europe, and joined the League in
1923 and the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1924.
In early 1926, Deng left Paris for Moscow to study at Sun Yat-Sen
University. Deng returned to China in the Spring of 1927. He played an instrumental role in their
volutionary struggle led by the CPC. After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, Deng
held a number of important leadership positions and became the General Secretary of the CPC Central
Committee in 1956. Deng’s career suffered a setback during the ten years of the "cultural
revolution". After the end of the "cultural revolution", he returned to work and eventually became
the Vice Chairman of the CPC Central Committee in 1977 and Chairman of the CPC Central Military
Commission in 1981. In 1978, Deng launched the reform and opening-up policy which paved the way for
China’s rapid growth and development in the following decades. Deng
visited Singapore in the same year.
Deng was a staunch communist and a great patriot who aspired to achieve
China's rejuvenation. On the domestic front, he implemented bold reforms. Internationally, he took
steps to gradually open China up to the world. Deng’s economic and administrative reforms were
marked by pragmatism, and served the need for social order and a corrupt-free government. His
pragmatic approach towards reforms is best captured in his own words, “It does not matter if it
is a yellow cat or a black cat as long as it catches mice”. He introduced the theory of
socialism with Chinese characteristics. All forms of economic controls were relaxed and the first
group of Special Economic Zones (Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen) were initiated.
These economic initiatives resulted in exponential growth for China. Internationally,Deng started
China’s closer ties with the world. Relations with the United Stateswere normalised on 1 January
In November 1978, Deng paid his first and only official visit to Singapore.
He was impressed with what he saw and showed a particular interest in the benefits of foreign
investments for Singapore. At the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee of the CPC in
1978, Deng initiated the dual policies of economic reform and openness to the world. His visit in
Singapore also laid the foundation for the strong ties that exist between the two countries today,
even though diplomatic relations were established only on 3 October 1990. Following Deng’s famous
Southern Tour in 1992, when he commented on Singapore’s good social order and management, many
Chinese officials were sent to Singapore for training. Over the years, the bilateral relationship
had been further deepened through the frequentexchange of high-level visits, strong economic
cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges.
Deng passed away on 19 February 1997 at the age of 93. He is best
remembered as one of the most successful statesmen of modern China, and the chief architect who
transformed China into an economic giant.