was the paramount leader of the People's Republic of China from 1978 until his
retirement in 1989. After Chairman Mao Zedong's death, Deng led his country
through far-reaching market-economy reforms. While Deng never held office as
the head of state, head of government or General Secretary (that is, the leader
of the Communist Party), he nonetheless was responsible for economic reforms
and an opening to the global economy.
During his paramount leadership, his official state positions were Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from 1978–1983 and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China from 1983–1990, while his official party positions were Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1977–1982 and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China from 1981–1989.
Born into a peasant background in Guang'an, Sichuan province, Deng studied and worked in France in the 1920s, where he became a follower of Marxism–Leninism. He joined the Communist Party of China in 1923. Upon his return to China he joined the party organization in Shanghai, then was a political commissar for the Red Army in rural regions and by the late 1930s was considered a "revolutionary veteran" because he participated in the Long March. Following the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, Deng worked in Tibet and the southwest region to consolidate Communist control.
As the party's Secretary General in the 1950s, Deng presided over anti-rightist campaigns and became instrumental in China's economic reconstruction following the Great Leap Forward of 1957–1960. However, his economic policies caused him to fall out of favor with Mao, and he was purged twice during the Cultural Revolution. Following Mao's death in 1976, Deng outmanoeuvred the late chairman's chosen successor Hua Guofeng in December 1978. Inheriting a country beset with social conflict, disenchantment with the Communist Party and institutional disorder resulting from the leftist policies of the Mao era, Deng became the paramount figure of the "second generation" of party leadership.
Some called him "the architect" of a new brand of thinking that combined socialist ideology with pragmatic market economy whose slogan was "socialism with Chinese characteristics". Deng opened China to foreign investment and the global market, policies that are credited with developing China into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world for several generations and raising the standard of living of hundreds of millions. Deng was also criticized for ordering the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, but praised for his reaffirmation of the reform program in his Southern Tour of 1992 and the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997.