Kevin Tellier (@kevtellier): My unpopular Deng Xiaoping take is that he gets too much credit for "making China rich" and not nearly enough credit for establishing China's administrative state. /1

China's modern administrative state is the source of its strength, and China's state bureaucracy was essentially non-existent before Deng became preeminent leader in 1978. /2

Deng's economic reforms were deeply significant, but ultimately the state of "being a rich country" is not sufficient for China to be the geopolitical player it is today. Limited liberalization was always a means of building powerful administrative state capacity. /3

Also, it's interesting how both the CPC and the West adopt very similar perceptions of Deng, seemingly for entirely different reasons. /4

In the US, many misread Deng as a neoliberal reformer which then leads to the faulty assumption that "Xi should just be more like Deng and China will be on the right track again" /5

Deng and Xi were/are both authoritarian pragmatists with incredibly similar leadership styles and visions for China's future. There's no reason to believe Deng would respond much differently to China's current challenges than Xi is now. /6

Neoliberals highlight Deng's market-friendly tendencies yet turn a blind eye to the fact that he's the one who orchestrated the 6/4 crackdown and was the last Chinese leader to launch a foreign military invasion (Vietnam, 1979) /7

From China's perspective, if modern CPC leaders give Deng too much credit for establishing the modern state, then they risk becoming constrained by convention, Deng's legacy, and his precedents. /8

Either way, unless China's future leaders decide to completely uproot the existing bureaucratic structure, all guiding ideologies (including XJP Thought) will always be embedded within Deng Xiaoping's legacy by default. /9