Young Deng Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) was born to a gentry family in Sichuan while Empress Dowager Cixi still sat on the throne. His father saw the upheaval coming to China’s society and rather than giving his son a classical education, he enrolled Deng in a program that sent him to France.

Deng spent five years working in factories in southern France and visited Moscow, where he first encountered Leninist thought, setting him on the socialist path. At a young age, Deng had already seen far more of the world than his colleague Mao Zedong, but he lacked Mao’s complicated relationship to Chinese tradition, having been spared Mao’s strict classical education.