On this day in 1979, Deng Xiaoping, as deputy premier of China, meets with U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Washington. Together they sign historic, scientific and cultural accords.
Deng Xiaoping lived out the full and dramatic transformation of China. He joined the Chinese Communist party in 1920 and participated in Mao Zedong's Long March in 1934. He later became one of the first to advocate opening China to foreign investment, a position considered too radical by hard-liners. Because of his controversial economic beliefs, he was purged and reinstated several times during his long political career. In 1976 he consolidated his rule and was soon seeking closer ties with the West. In 1979, the United States granted full diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China and Deng signed new accords with President Carter during a celebrated visit to the U.S.
Deng continued to dominate Chinese politics throughout the 1980s and instituted a variety of economic reforms. He resigned from his last party post in 1989 because of the controversy surrounding the government crackdown at Tiananmn Square. He died in 1997.