Historic figures in Sino-U.S. relations: Deng Xiaoping

Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping Visits the US

From January 28 to February 5, 1979, Chinese Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping made an official visit to the United States, the first Chinese leader to make a visit since 1949. His visit turned out to be a great success and made a huge contribution to the further development of China-US relations. From then on, China said "good-bye" to isolation and stepped onto the path of "opening to the world" and "opening to the future."

Deng Xiaoping


At the turn of the century the Chinese nation was groaning in misery. Under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-sen a resolution was brewing, and the country was on the eve of radical changes, It was in this turbulent time that Deng Xiaoping was born.

Deng's birthplace was Paifang Village in Xiexing Township, Guang'an County, in the province of Sichuan. His childhood home was a traditional compound with one-storied housed surrounding a courtyard on three sides. It was in these tree-shaded, tile-roofed buildings that his forefathers had lived for three generations and that Deng Xixian -- the future Deng Xiaoping -- was born on August 22,1904.

his father, Deng Wenming, had studied at the Chengdu School of Law and Political Science during the last Xiaoping's mother, Dan by her family name, died early, leaving behind the eldest son Deng Xiaoping, his three younger brothers, an elder sister and two younger sisters.

At five the boy entered and old-fashioned private pre-school, at seven a modern primary school and in due course a middle school in his native county. It happened that in 1919, on the proposal of Wu Yuzhang, a member of the Chongqing to prepare young people to go to France on a work-study program. After passing the entrance examinations, the boy was enrolled in the school.

In his teens Deng Xiaoping already had some simple patriotic ideas. After the may 4th Movement of 1919, he joined his schoolmate in a boycott of Japanese goods. But his understanding did not go beyond the slogan "save the country by industrialization", an idea popular among students at the time. His ardent hope was to go to France to learn industrial skills through work and study for the benefit of the country.

Study Abroad

In the summer of 1920, Deng Xiaoping graduated from the Chongqing Preparatory School, filled with fervent hopes, he and 80 schoolmates boarded a ship for France (traveling steerage) and in October arrived in Marseilles. Deng, the youngest of all the Chinese students, had just turned 16.

Things did not turn our as he had hoped. He found that he had to spend most of his time working, and at the most unskilled jobs. Two months after his arrival he began to do odd jobs at the Le Creusot Iron and Steel Plant in central France. Later he worked as a fitter in the Renault factory in the Paris suburb of Billancourt, as a fireman on locomotive and as a kitchen helper in restaurants. He barely earned enough to survive. He attended middle schools briefly in Bayeux and Chatillon.

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