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UPDATED: 10:26, August 24, 2004
Dramatic changes in China a birthday gift from Deng to his country, Interview
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Eighteen years ago, CBS "60 Minutes" program correspondent Mike Wallace asked Deng Xiaoping: "Everybody would like to ask this question: in the last few years Deng Xiaoping has done a good job -- he's done a good job in modernization, the economy is developing, people are not as afraid as they used to be -- but after Deng Xiaoping, what will happen? They wonder whether things will go back to the way they were before."

Deng Xiaoping told him: "Certainly there will be no turning back."

Eighteen years later, Wallace said in an interview that Deng's answer to him had been proved.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Deng's birth, and when we look back we will realize that Deng's predictions made two decades ago on the prospects of China's reform and opening up have become a reality. The reform and opening up have brought dramatic changes to China, and this is a birthday gift Deng presents to his country.

While playing a video featuring Wallace's interview with Deng, Wallace told reporter that when he made the interview in 1986 China was still shrouded in secrecy in the eyes of westerners. It is the reform and opening up that gradually made China understood by the outside world and today's China is no longer mysterious. Americans are no long afraid of China. It is Deng Xiaoping who brought these changes.

Deng embarked China on a road completely different from the past, said Wallace. He raised the living standards of the Chinese people and gave them opportunities to enjoy a better life. The Chinese people are now much more well off than in the past and today they hold a much more optimistic attitude towards the future. Foreigners now also look at China from an entirely different perspective.

Talking about his impression on Deng Xiaoping, Wallace said that Deng is a great man. He interviewed leaders from many countries, but Deng turned out to be different from all the rest of them. Westerners are fascinated by his wisdom, his optimistic attitude during the "cultural revolution", his pragmatic manner, his frank way of speaking as well as the dramatic ups and downs in his whole life. Leaders of other countries may undergo similar hardships, but Deng's experiences during the "cultural revolution" are unique.

Deng is a wise leader who has no liking for personality cult, said Wallace, adding that although Deng led a big country with one fifth population of the world total, he never saw any of Deng's picture or stature at pubic places, which surprised him most. Deng also told him that some people wanted to write biography for him but he was not interested in. He consciously avoided cult of the individual for Chinese leaders.

Deng speaks in a very frank yet clever way, Wallace said, recalling a conversation at the beginning of his interview in 1986. "I remember I started the interview by saying 'you are a person inaccessible to reporters'. Deng answered: 'Because I am a very ordinary person". Then I said, "I hope the following hour will turn out to be interesting to you'. Deng replied: 'I hope you will not be disappointed'. Then I asked "Why you decided to have the interview with us at this time?' He said: 'Because I want to know American people and they can know China better; what I mean by American people includes American leaders'. 'It seems you are quite serious with our conversation this time'. Deng answered: 'This is because I always tell the truth, and always tell our people not to make empty talks'".

He felt that Deng was a person amiable and easy to approach during his interview, Wallace recollected, and the whole conversation was held in a relaxed atmosphere. During his interview, Wallace said, he once asked a cigarette from Deng. He explained that when he felt nervous he would consider doing something else to help relax him. In fact, however, at that time he didn't smoke much. When asked, "Even a correspondent as famous as you would feel nervous?" Wallace replied, "Of course. I met many world leaders but never before I met Deng Xiaoping. Deng is different from the others, he is unique".

By People's Daily Online

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