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Chief Architect's Legacy Cherished

On his last will, he had his corneas donated and his body anatomized for medical research. His ashes were later spread onto the high seas.

Humble in death, no tomb, no stone tablet was erected for the "chief architect of China's reforms."

But these days, many Chinese have found their own ways to commemorate Deng Xiaoping and mark the centenary of the great man's birth.

In Deng's hometown, Guang'an County of Sichuan Province, local people have designed postal albums and stamps.

His old residence, in Paifang Village, has been turned into a museum and it is now open to the public.

Meanwhile, more than 100 publications and 60 audio-visual products have been recently released to highlight Deng's life and achievements.

Among them, an album released by Liaoning Publishing House collected 150 pictures to highlight Deng's extraordinary life. The pictures are selected from photographer Lu Xiangyou's 31-year focus on Deng, displaying both the leader's political career and his personal life.

Reflecting on a picture showing Deng during a rare leisure moment, sitting by the sea during a vacation in Dalian's Bangchui Island and musing, Lu, the photographer with People's Daily, said he suddenly realized that Deng was always preoccupied with the people's interests and the future of the nation.

Meanwhile, China Central Television (CCTV) and local TV stations across the country have a line-up of documentaries and films featuring Deng's life and the changes China has experienced since Deng initiated reforms in 1978.

In Hong Kong, a documentary featuring "Deng Xiaoping and Hong Kong" will be aired in mid-August.

At the Beijing Book Centre, a mini photo gallery brings visitors back to Deng's checkered life and the ups and downs of China.

Shu Binghui, a 30-year-old man studying graphic design in Malaysia, excitedly browsed through the pictures.

"In China, people aged over 70 are customarily conservative and unwilling to try things new," he said. "Deng Xiaoping was totally different. He learned quickly and was always innovative."

Back in the days immediately after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), the Chinese people had their minds and thoughts shackled by decades of social turmoil and isolation from outside world.

Lots of things that we take for granted today were taboo then. Private property, for example, was condemned as one of the evils and egalitarianism was taken for granted.

Noted for his pragmatic work style, Deng took it as an urgent task to emancipate Chinese people's minds and unleash their creativity, rather than let the country become bogged down in theoretical quarrels.

The new reforms led by Deng started in the countryside. Chinese farmers were able to contract to farm their own plots and retain whatever was left of their harvests after paying taxes and a fee to the public welfare fund of their villages. Living standards rapidly improved in the countryside.

The reforms were later expanded into cities and by April 1984, four special economic zones and 10 other coastal cities had been opened up to overseas capital.

The move proved rewarding.

China's coastal regions have developed into the engine for China's economic growth, bringing in investment, modern corporate management and business savvy.

Deng also gave a strong push to the country's drive to build its own market economy, with socialist characteristics.

"Over the past two decades, China has had one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world and become increasingly merged with the rest of the world," said Wang Yulan, a government official in Beijing.

In her 50s, Wang stands as an eyewitness to the acute shortages prevalent during the pre-reform years, which forced the government to ration food and many other essentials.

People of her age have seen not only a boisterous economic takeoff, but a widening wealth gap between the city and the countryside, the relatively developed eastern coast and the backward northwest interior, which in turn nourished very different mentalities.

Gao Le, a 20-year-old urban bachelor in Beijing, is a perfect poster boy for American culture. He wears a Jack Johnson shirt and pants and Adidas for backpack and sneakers and dines only in Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonalds and likes western music.

As to Deng Xiaoping, the young man only knows that Deng helped Hong Kong return to the motherland.

In contrast, Peng Ruijiao, a sophomore of Guizhou Polytechnics University, admires Deng Xiaoping for his well-known saying: "I am a son of Chinese people; I love my country and my people dearly."

Peng said he had wanted to become a civil servant to serve the people but eventually took marketing as his major.

"My parents live in the countryside and they want me to help them with money," he said.

Both Gao and Peng said that nowadays, young people seem to be increasingly apathetic about political theories.

Shu Binhui, however, is somewhat different.

"China is justified to concentrate on economic development as called for by Deng Xiaoping," he said. "The tricky part is to carry on our culture and good traditions, especially the passion of our elders like Deng towards the motherland."

Hoping to find a job back in China, Shu said that he admired Deng for his foresight in believing that most overseas students would come back. Back in the 1980s, he recalled, some people asked the government to curb the number of young people studying abroad.

"No country is perfect, and managing so sweeping an economic and social transformation in a country as vast and complex as China would be a colossal challenge to any government," Shu said.

Actually, in the very beginning of the economic reforms, Deng already foresaw possible conflicts between economy and culture.

He stressed more than once that it would be imperative to build a socialist society which is not only abundant in materials but also advanced culturally and ideologically, so people would cherish lofty ideals and moral integrity, become better educated and observe discipline.

On the agendas of the current government, many Chinese agree, there are problems crying for solution -- the fight against corruption, the need to rectify the Party and improve the country's legal system, in addition to poverty alleviation and above all, the task of providing fair opportunities to all.

With love and trust, many Chinese like to "talk" to Deng as if confiding to an old friend.

At the former residence of Deng Xiaoping in Paifang Village, visitors' messages have filled 99 note pads.

One reads: "Comrade Xiaoping, we miss you. Do you know that the price of cooking oil has risen again?"

(China Daily August 11, 2004)

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