A straightforward account of the life of the most recently retired Chinese leader, set in the context of 20th-century Chinese history. Born to a prosperous farm family in 1904, Deng studied in France, where he met Zhou En-Lai and became a Communist Party member, from 1920 to 1926. Returning to China via Russia, he was soon a close associate of Mao Zedung's and a powerful Party member, which he remained despite three periods of disfavor. He was bold enough to warn against the ""serious consequences [of] the deification of. . .individuals"" at the height of Mao's power and, always a pragmatist, advocated some degree of capitalism--believing that policies should be chosen for effectiveness rather than doctrinal purity: ""White or black, so long as cats can catch mice they are good cats."" He survived the Cultural Revolution in exile, and was recalled when Zhou needed his skill as a diplomat. A wave of popular revulsion against the excesses of the Cultural Revolution after Mao's 1976 death brought him to power. Deng eschewed the veneration given his predecessor, so there are few enlivening personal details here. Lubetkin clearly outlines the historical background; and though her rather dry narrative consists largely of material found elsewhere, there is inherent interest in the career of a reformer of unusual moderation, with the wisdom to say of economic innovation: ""We hope it will succeed, but if it fails we will draw lessons from it."" Many photos, brief bibliography, index.