The legacy of overseas study for China's early leaders: Deng Xiaoping

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Due to a vibrant study experience in France, Deng Xiaoping made himself China's greatest revolutionary and reformist.

In October 1920, sixteen-year-old Deng arrived in France where he started his five years of overseas education with the hope of saving his nation through industrial development.

Unfortunately his study life came to a halt after less than half a year because he could not pay the tuition fees. During the four years afterwards, Deng worked in local steel plants and rubber factories, feeding himself with meager earnings of ten francs everyday.

Deng's high hopes of continuing his studies in France were crushed by the grim realities of life. But the young man began to hold new ideas. Thanks to the October Revolution in Russia, the workers' movement in France gained momentum, and Marxism and other schools of Socialist thought won more and more followers.

A number of ideologically advanced Chinese students started to accept Marxism and take the revolutionary road. Under the influence of his seniors, Zhao Shiyan, Zhou Enlai and others, in the second half of 1924 Deng joined the Chinese Communist Party and transformed from a patriotic youth into a Marxist.

Around this time, groups of Chinese Communist Party and Youth League members in Europe went to the Soviet Union to study. In early 1926 Deng Xiaoping left France for Moscow.

At first he entered the Communist University of the Toilers of the East (Far Eastern University), but shortly afterwards he transferred to the Sun Yat-sen University, which was focused on training personnel for China's revolution.

After six years abroad, Deng Xiaoping was no longer the naïve young man he had been before he left China. He was now a staunch revolutionary with a firm understanding of Marxism-Leninism and had endured no small degree of personal struggle.

In addition, though his own overseas study experience, the sagacious statesman fully recognized how important study abroad was to China's future development.

Deng delivered a speech in June 1978, stressing that China should expand the academic cooperation with foreign countries and send more students to study abroad.

He also engineered the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, which helped make China's economic development miracle of the past 30 years possible.

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