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Mao's death in September 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four a month later cleared the way for Deng's return to power the next year. Once again he was required to sign a letter of contrition, which he did largely for expediency. Says Parris Chang, professor of political science at Pennsylvania State University: "Deng is a man who knows when to bow and bend."
For a man who has spent most of his life in the thick of politics, Deng has remained unusually close to his family. Since the death of his father in 1938, his household has included his stepmother Xia Baigen. He helps support an aunt and uncle, 86 and 83, respectively, who still live at the old Sichuan family home in Paifang. After the Cultural Revolution, he arranged for his son Deng Pufang to receive medical treatment in the U.S. He is now director of China's Welfare Fund for the Handicapped. Deng Zhifang, 34, is a graduate researcher in physics at New York's University of Rochester. Deng's three daughters are married. The oldest, Deng Lin, is an accomplished artist who has exhibited her paintings in New York City. Deng Rong and her husband He Ping, both Chinese foreign service officers, served in Washington from 1979 to 1983. Deng has at least two grandchildren, on whom he is said to dote.
Deng relaxes by swimming and indulging his passion for bridge. He and his wife hold a regular Saturday game at their home in the Western Hills area of Peking, usually with Vice Premier Wan Li and Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang. Deng has a fondness for pomelos, a grapefruit-like citrus fruit grown in Sichuan, and he sometimes places special orders for them. He is also a world-class smoker, lighting one Panda-brand cigarette after another in his meetings and audiences. Deng recently declared to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "Mine is a hands-off policy, I let other people do things." On the visible evidence, that is just another sly Deng understatement. --By William R. Doerner. Reported by David Aikman/Washington and Jaime A. FlorCruz/Paifang