China now tries to tame Deng's black and white cats
SHENZHEN, China |
SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - A huge billboard of China's late leader Deng Xiaoping presides over an intersection in the heart of Shenzhen, part shrine, part tourist attraction and part ad for market reforms.
Hundreds visit each day. A few bring flowers. Everyone poses for pictures. For those without cameras, 20 yuan ($2.58) buys two snapshots of yourself, printed and laminated on the spot -- one before the Deng billboard, and one facing the other way with Shenzhen's skyscrapers in the background.
A fitting tribute, perhaps, to the man who launched China's reforms and whose symbolic "Southern Tour" to Shenzhen and neighboring cities 15 years ago shifted the project into overdrive.
Deng died 10 years ago on Monday and while his ongoing reform era has been headlined by shrinking poverty and strong economic growth, rifts between rich and poor, the wealthy east and the remote west, have grown, and with them social unrest. Corruption is common and land grabs have left many peasants disgruntled.
The diminutive leader from Sichuan remains largely revered in China as a visionary who saw that the country's only future as it emerged from the rubble of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution lay in ditching the rigid, planned economy. He was a political survivor who weathered multiple purges to come out on top.
"He was different from the leaders who came before him, but without them he wouldn't have been the leader that he was," said Hunan native Dong Jie, 58, who worked in Shenzhen in the 1990s and whose daughter and son both have jobs here now.
Deng's thinking was straightforward and perhaps best summed up when he said: "It doesn't matter if the cat is white or black; if it catches mice, it's a good cat". He called it "socialism with Chinese characteristics".
REFORM CREATED PROBLEMS
Deng presided over reforms from the late 1970s until his death, and then his successor, Jiang Zemin, carried the banner and even flung the Communist Party's door open to entrepreneurs.
But the latest generation of leaders, led by Party chief Hu Jintao, have made a priority of addressing some of the negative side effects of the anything-goes prescription that Deng wrote and Jiang promoted.
"Many of Deng's policies, for instance favoring the east coast and the single-minded pursuit of GDP growth, have fostered a series of problems," said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a long-time China watcher who has written extensively on the post-Deng era.
The big buzzword of the Hu era so far has been "harmony". Hu seeks to distribute more evenly the benefits of double-digit economic growth and raise living standards for those who have been left behind. Deng sought for some to get rich first.
"In a sense, Hu is trying to rectify some of the problems which Deng had not envisaged and which Deng's policies produced in the first 20-odd years of reform," Lam said.
"It's a criticism of Deng's policies ... Hu is basically closer to Mao in some respects."
In the early 1980s, Deng repudiated the Cultural Revolution and gave Chinese more freedom than they had for decades. China's relations with the West warmed considerably.
By the end of the decade, though, Communist regimes in Europe were showing cracks, and in the spring of 1989 student-led protesters occupied Tiananmen Square demanding more democracy.
Sensing the Party he helped build was under threat, Deng ordered the army to end the protests. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were injured or killed when soldiers shot into crowds blocking their way on the night of June 3-4.
"Adhere to the Party line for 100 years unshakably," the billboard in Shenzhen implores, underscoring Deng's priorities.
In general, visitors here tend to be forgiving of the paramount leader who died at the age of 92 with more power than anyone in China but only one official title: honorary chairman of the China Bridge Association.
"All great people do both good and bad," said 22-year-old Wang Tao from the northern province of Shaanxi.
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