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Farewell to Mr. Ezra Vogel
Shen Zaiwang
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Farewell to Mr. Ezra Vogel

Hi, I am Shen Zaiwang, Ezra Vogel’s Chinese friend. I live in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. I worked at the Sichuan Provincial People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries before I retired. Early in the morning of December 21, I heard that Ezra Vogel had passed away. I couldn’t believe this sad news. I felt deep regret and sorrow. Ezra’s last email to me was on July 11 this year, his 90th birthday. I wrote to him with my congratulations. He replied to me: “Dear Zaiwang, how nice of you to remember my 90th birthday. Thank you for sending those pictures from your visit to Harvard. “Of course, I am very unhappy that relations between China and the United States have become so bad. Do you think there is any hope that relations might improve if Biden is elected president and shows more receptivity to our countries working together? Ezra” “Don’t worry too much,” I replied, hesitating over his question. “There is an old Chinese saying, riding a donkey and watching a song book. We’ll see. China’s future is still a long way, the Chinese will do their best to develop their own economy, improve life, this is what the people welcome and hope to do.” On his birthday, I published my writing “Hello, Ezra Vogel” on the official account of “Forever West China”. My article was read more than 10,000 times in a few days. Many friends sent me WeChat messages to express congratulations for Ezra’s birthday and praised his contribution to promoting Sino-American relations and the friendship between the Chinese and American people. I conveyed the response of Huaxi readers to Ezra. He was very happy.

I met Ezra four times, three times in Chengdu and one at Harvard. I met Ezra the first time by chance on 7 December 2007. Upon the invitation of Professor Kristin Stapleton of New York State University, I accompanied the delegation of the National Committee on American-Chinese Relations to the Jianchuan Museum at Dayi County, Chengdu. When Kristin learned that I had published an article In Nanchang I visited Deng Xiaoping, she introduced me to the delegation’s consultant Ezra Vogel. She told Ezra that Mr. Shen once visited Deng Xiaoping’s house during the Cultural Revolution. Ezra immediately asked me to sit next to him and asked a lot of details about Deng Xiaoping's life in Nanchang. Ezra said that Deng Xiaoping was in Nanchang for several years, contacted with his few people, and in this period Deng formed his reform and opening up thought which was extremely important.

From nine in the morning to nine in the evening, our conversation hardly stopped. I was surprised and admired that the nearly octogenarian was so energetic and quick to think. When he broke up, he said to me, I believe in your statement, because you are not only personal experienced, but also more objective. Ezra thanked me for telling the story. At the end of his book, I was included in the list of 300 people interviewed.

In 2008, I visited the United States with Mr.Fan Jianchuan and met Ezra at Harvard University. Ezra told me that his book had been basically finished and was still being revised and supplemented. But he was a little entangled, because the book involved some sensitive topics. he was worried that some Chinese friends would feel uneasy. I said to him, these topics could not be avoided, as long as you told objective facts, your Chinese friends would understand. Ezra told me that it was difficult to write about this book: I’m not a historian, I’m a researcher, I’m going to interview questions when writing, but the most important thing is to think. He told me that Deng Xiaoping advocated seeking truth from facts, and I wrote this book in the spirit of seeking truth from facts. This book was not strictly a biography of Deng Xiaoping, and there were not many stories, mainly my analytical comments.

There have been many communications between us. In my impression, Ezra learned rich, but extremely humble, friendly. He is good at listening, diligent, deep thinking, his writing with fluent style, rigorous words. He is a learned man and a good neighbor in the eyes of many ordinary people. Over the course of his decade, he wrote a 900-page landmark book, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, which shows his energy and intelligence. He embodies the wisdom and virtue of the Jews, good at diligence and charity. Indeed, he donated more than a million dollars to an unknown university in his hometown, that was the whole payment of his book.

August 28 of 2014 was the 110th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s birth, and Sichuan Province, as Deng Xiaoping’s hometown, held commemorative activities. I served in the Sichuan Provincial People's for Association Friendship with Foreign Countries and invited Ezra to visit the cities of Guang’an and Chengdu. When he came to Sichuan, I accompanied his whole journey. That was Ezra’s third visit to Guang’an. He sighed that the city had changed a lot. After renovating and expanding the former residence and memorial hall of Deng Xiaoping, he said that the memorial hall had a lot of new contents and exhibition forms, better than before, especially the restoration of Deng Xiaoping’s office at home, and his meeting room at home, which impressed him.

I wrote a comment for my leader’s welcome speech before Ezra’s lecture in Chengdu: “Professor Ezra Vogel is a scholar with international reputation, who has a profound research and unique view on Deng Xiaoping’s theory and practice. His Deng Xiaoping and Transformation of China is a complete book about Deng Xiaoping, which shows the history of China's political, economic and social transformation, and becomes an important reading book to understand the course and direction of China's reform. This book gives a panoramic description of Deng Xiaoping's ups and downs and China’s road to reform and opening up, and a deep analysis of Deng Xiaoping’s personal and ruling style. The book covers a wealth of Chinese and foreign archival materials and research results. China and the United States to establish diplomatic relations, reform and opening up, solve the Hong Kong problem, Deng’s Southern tour talk and other major issues are detailed and analyzed.”

After his lecture, he was awarded the Certificate of Overseas Senior Adviser of Sichuan Provincial People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign countries. He was praised as the old friend of Chinese people. “The biggest difficulty I’ve had in writing the Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China in 10 years was collecting materials,” he admitted in a group interview with several media outlets, “During the interview, I met and listened to the people who supported, opposed and criticized Deng Xiaoping. Therefore, in this book, I try to be as objective as possible, so that readers can have their own judgment after reading.”

He summed it up by saying that “I am honored to write the Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, which shows that the Chinese people love Deng Xiaoping.”

The year 2020 is a year of global turbulence and choppy. Ezra was deeply worried about the decline in U.S.-China relations, hoping that the youth of the two countries will work actively to maintain and improve U.S.-China relations. The man has gone, the words are still in the ear, a bell, enlighten the hearts of the people.

May Ezra Vogel rest in heaven.     

By Shen Zaiwang

Shen ZaiwangDarcy Littler

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