Deng Xiaoping: The Leader Who Modernized China

Deng Xiaoping was a brilliant, mission-focused Chairman for providing subsistence for the citizens of the People’s Republic of China, making him a competent candidate for the 5th Greatest Leader position.

It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.

-Deng Xiaoping

Background Information

The Cultural Revolution had just ended, but China was still suffering from the aftermath of its 10-year chaos. The country was still under communist doctrines, there was political instability, the economy was performing weakly, and the school education system was damaged.

When Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, passed away, Deng Xiaoping became the successor that would guide China towards a path to prosperity.


Modernizing Agriculture

During his administration, Deng Xiaoping introduced capitalistic practices into the agricultural industry and encouraged rural families to raise crops on their lands. Before Deng’s rule, the government owned farming lands and decided what should be grown, but Deng allowed the opposite: farmers were given the rights to their lands as well as what they wanted to grow. 

Farmers were also allowed to earn extra bonuses from selling their surplus crops on the free market, as long as they had already sold the required amount of crops to the government. All these reforms led farmers to stimulate the agricultural industry, and food production increased immensely, which solved many of China’s famine issues at the time.

Modernizing the Chinese Industry

Shenzhen’s before and after

It was the right moment to have China open to the world. One of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms was to construct Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in China that would create employment opportunities, attract investments, and advance in geopolitical objectives. To attract foreign businesses to settle in these areas, benefits are granted such as tax incentives and duty-free exports.

The first four cities that turned into SEZs were Shantou, Zhuhai, Xiamen, and Shenzhen.

One of the most well-known and successful SEZs was Shenzhen. This city was originally a fishing village, but after 20 around years became a highrise city.

Modernizing Science and Technology

Deng truly believed that science, technology, and innovation can play a fundamental role in advancing a country’s economy. Therefore, he introduced and funded numerous training programs in the STEM field for students and researchers, as well as encouraged them to travel overseas and bring what they’ve learned back to their mother country.

We are going to send thousands or tens of thousands of students to receive overseas education“, said Deng.

In less than 25 years, over 58,000 Chinese people have studied abroad in over 100 countries and regions. Afterward, they used what they learned to advance China’s economic, scientific, and technological progress, which proved successful.

Impact and Influence

Since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, China’s GDP has been increasing by around 15% annually. Additionally, the amount people in poverty decreased from 85% in 1981 to 0.7% in 2015, which means that over 850 million Chinese civilians were lifted out of poverty!

Degree of Recognition

  • Deng was nominated as Time‘s “Person of the Year” for the years 1978 and 1985.
Left: 1985 edition, Right: 1978 edition

  • In 1979, Deng Xiaoping became the first leader of Modern China to visit the United States.
Deng shaking hands with U.S. President Richard Nixon.

During his 1979 tour, he attended a rodeo show and was given a cowboy hat.


Thanks to Deng Xiaoping, China became one of the most developed countries in the world. Under his authority, he restored the country to one that could sustain economic growth, provide its citizens with legal protection, personal and cultural freedom, and open borders for international trade. In the end, most people’s quality of life have improved, and everyone was happy.


Despite being constantly pushed back by his political rivals, he never gave up on accomplishing what he thought was right for the country. He was a patriotic man who didn’t aspire to only become personally “rich” in life, but also wanted every Chinese people’s standards of living to improve. He recognized faults in how the country was run and persisted to have those changed. I believe he is a great leader for us all to look upon, and it was this quality that gained the public’s love: doing what is right even when it is difficult.


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