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By Benjamin Yang

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According to another interviewee, however, "He was just OK in his studiesùnot too good, nor too bad. "10 Today, there are also stories, legends almost, about Deng's sympathy and generosity with poor classmates, such as how he helped them with food and money-stories somewhat comparable to the tale of George Washington and the cherry tree. After young Deng graduated from the Xiexing primary school in the summer of 1915, his father wanted his eldest son to further his education. To the best of Deng Wenming's knowledge, that would mean sending Deng Xiaoping to attend a secondary school in the county seat of Guang'an, despite the long distance and considerable expense that would be involved.

7 Originally a nationwide secret society formed to launch peasant rebellions against the Manchu invasion a few centuries earlier, the Society of Elder Brothers had evolved into a grass-roots organization of rural folk whose purpose was to protect local interests and provide its members with mutual assistance. The rich and powerful would in all likelihood be made chiefs of the society, and chiefs of the society would, in turn, become the rich and powerful. This general formula applied perfectly in the case of Deng Wenming.

My attempt at writing this biography of Deng was prompted in the summer of 1984 during my trip to Sichuan with Ross Terrill, who had just published his Madame Mao at the time, and who has ever since provided me with advice and assistance. In a special forum on Deng held by The China Quarterly in London in 1993, I learned much from other participants, particularly David Shambaugh and Dick Wilson. Martin Revlin of Columbia University helped check the entire manuscript. I also benefited from David Goodman's publications as much as from our direct communications.

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