In February 1997, at the age of 92, Deng Xiaoping passed away after some years of incapacity. Only a short time after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 he had come to be recognised as China’s ‘paramount leader’, a phrase which describes perfectly the largely informal, but virtually unchallengeable, power he wielded for almost two decades. Thus, when we talk of the successes and failures of the post-Mao era we mean, in effect, the successes and failures of Deng Xiaoping and the reformers acting in his name. China itself claims that, by its own figures, it had succeeded in quadrupling the 1980 national income by the year 1995, five years ahead of schedule. The urban sector has probably seen per capita incomes increase fivefold since 1978, and the rural sector threefold. Future targets are similarly ambitious.
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