(5 of 6)
As relations between the longtime comrades continued to deteriorate, the aging Chairman fell more and more under the sway of his wife Jiang Qing and her ultraleftist allies from Shanghai. At first Deng dismissed their growing influence as a passing phenomenon. "Young leading cadres have risen up by helicopter," he later scoffed. "They should really rise step by step." By 1966, however, the radicals had gained the upper hand and, with Mao's backing, plunged China into the frenzy of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Deng attempted to backpedal politically, apologizing at a public meeting in Peking for having taken "a bourgeois line." He added, "My recent errors are by no means accidental. They have their origins in a certain way of thinking and a certain style of work which has developed over a period of time." That admission satisfied Jiang Qing and the fanatical Red Guards only temporarily. In 1967 Mao's wife openly denounced Deng as a "culprit of the counterrevolutionary capitalist line," leading to his dismissal from both his party and government offices. He was, however, allowed to retain his party membership.
For Deng and many other political moderates, the Cultural Revolution was a nightmare. With his wife Zhuo Lin, Deng was exiled to southern Jiangxi province, where he was forced to perform manual labor in a tractor factory and wait on tables in a mess hall. Members of Deng's family were also punished for his political sins. His younger brother Deng Shuping, a city official in Guiyang, was hounded mercilessly by self-appointed Red Guard officials and in despair committed suicide in 1967. His elder son Deng Pufang, a 22-year-old student at Peking University, was crippled for life when he was denied medical treatment for a broken back, sustained in a fall caused by Red Guard tormentors. His daughter Deng Rong and younger son Deng Zhifang were banished to the countryside in the northern province of Shaanxi.
Though not in physical danger himself, Deng was eager to protect his family. He eventually was allowed to bring his children to live with him in the two-story brick home to which he had been assigned. He spent his free time reading, listening to the radio and keeping fit. Deng Rong later told Author Harrison Salisbury (The Long March) that her father paced restlessly around the house's courtyard every afternoon. "Watching his sure but fast-moving steps," she said, "I thought to myself that his faith, his ideas and determination must have become clearer and firmer, readying him for the battles ahead."
In 1973 Deng astonished everyone by showing up at a Peking banquet, using his old title of Vice Premier. It was soon clear that he had been rehabilitated to take over the day-to-day running of the government from Chou, who was succumbing to cancer. Deng also assumed operating control of the party and the military. Chastened at first but then with growing sureness, he helped Chou map out the ambitious Four Modernizations program, announced in January 1975.
But Jiang Qing and three other leftists loyal to Mao, who became known as the Gang of Four, retaliated. In April 1976 they ousted Deng from all his offices, leaving him in the political wilderness for the third time in his career. This time he was in physical danger for a period. Deng was rescued by Military Region Commander Xu Shiyou, an old friend, who provided shelter at a resort near Canton.