Portrait of Deng as Reformer in 1978 Plenum Ignores History

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tags: China, Deng Xiaoping

China’s Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, wants the late Deng Xiaoping’s magic. Mr. Xi will lay out proposals for economic rejuvenation at a leadership conference that started Saturday, and state-run media have likened the event to a historic meeting in 1978 when, they say, Mr. Deng began an era of market “reform and opening up.”

But anyone looking for inspiration and instruction from Mr. Deng should beware: the conventional account of the 1978 meeting is a compound of selective memories, and a deceptive guide to how China’s steps to economic transformation really happened.

“To put a halo on this meeting as a conference of reform and opening up is to concoct a myth,” Bao Tong, a former aide to ousted party secretary Zhao Ziyang, a central figure in the tumult of the 1980s, said in an interview with a Chinese researcher published in 2008....

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