Deng Xiaoping, a mixed legacy

Responsible for Tienanmen crackdown

The death of Deng Xiaoping, on 19 February 1997, prompted a torrent of commentaries in the international press on Deng's legacy.

While some credited him for his economic opening of China to the international community, most recalled his role in the continued repression and lack of political freedoms in China, and particularly the crackdown on the students democratic movement in the 1989 Tienanmen Incident.

With regard to his role in shaping China's relations with Taiwan, Mr. Deng's legacy is also dismal: he continued the anachronistic confrontational approach stemming from the Communists' Civil War against Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists on the mainland. He tried to sugarcoat this by offering Taiwan the same "One Country, Two system" fallacy as China was offering Hong Kong.

Drop the "unification" fallacy, move towards recognition of a new Taiwan

Mr. Deng was apparently never able to distinguish between the old repressive Kuomintang regime and the present new and democratic Taiwan. If anything, the rise in democracy in Taiwan scared the Beijing regime, because they were afraid it would present an example to the people in China.

Perhaps Mr. Deng's passing opens a new opportunity for his present successors to discard the old "unification" fallacy, and move towards acceptance of Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, in the same way Russia is recognizing the Baltic States as small and friendly neighbors.

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