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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China Hardcover – Sep 26 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Sept. 26 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674055446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674055445
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 17.5 x 5.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #96,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Marinelli on Dec 11 2012
Format: Hardcover
To understand this leader is not always easy since the author rarely if ever discusses the influences of his youth, and why he developed into a communist revolution. You do hear much of foreign influence in China along the coast and inwards and that is really what communism means in Asia coupled with collectivization within. We should remember these are two strands of what communism is. All communists accept the first but not all the latter, saying its conditioned by time, and as leader one of the first reforms was education and modern philosophy and science and reforming all the social structures in lieu of modern philosophy. The four modernizations enunciated they keep maoist thought which is indigenous control of the country(and they use those two words)...but the other part colectivization and state control of industry goes back to karl marx, which is from Karl Marx from Europe which they do not accept and use a modern approach to science and philosophy, and the usefulness of criticism, and the word reform geared toward a modern country is emphasized. There is an openess toward the past, and the early chinese empires are looked at again, and the great patriotic verve of the early empires and service to the nation when all wanted a child to serve in the public administration, and a mingling of what is positive in forming indigenous values, and applying it toward a modern economy. Very soon the openess has some problems during Tianneman square in the capital, which the senior leader does not take lightly. The schools are more open, teaching is more open, compared to what they taught during the previous leader, and eventually there is a clamp down, to him given his improvements it doesnt make sense, and thats his interpretation, and the military and Tianneman square...Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was an extremely objective book, and it overlooked Deng's shortcomings especially regarding Taiwan, Tibet, and the Dali Lama. The book completely overlooked some of China's human rights abuses. But I learned a lot and have a lot of context now for learning more about China. It gave me a foundational schema for understanding more about China.
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It's a book of chronology of Deng's era. Very informational! I highly recommend it to those who don't know too much about this part of history of China and are curious about it.
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From 32 million tons of steel in 1979, to 62 million tons in 1989, and now 600 million tons in 2010, China has become the largest steel-producer in the world. At less than $100 billion in 1978 when Deng Xiaoping came to power to $18 trillion ($18,000 billion) in 2005, and still growing, China's GDP has seen annual increases of 10% at a time when western world countries were lucky to achieve 2% real growth. From a country that was at the bottom of the economic heap to the second-largest economy in the world, China is set to overtake the United States economy in a few short years. From a country with none to a country with over 250 million (out of a total population of 1.5 billion), China's middle class is set to lead China's leap into the 22nd century , How did China do it? How is it poised to become the largest economy in the world by 2020? What happened?

"Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China" is the story of how this happened. It's not just the story of Deng, but the story of the Chinese people, the flaws and strengths of the leaders who have risen to its positions of power, how their government functions (the differences are amazing!), the role of the Communist Party of China and the influence held by its leaders. The book gives the reader insight into Chinese society, the difference in their way of thinking and how things are done, and how, with a strong centralized government, China was able to vault from a rural peasant-based economy, to a country on the leading edge of manufacturing technology.

While we may protest human rights, climate change, their form of government, and other ills, it is a fact that China is now a powerhouse that is still forging ahead while other countries flounder after the 2008 recession.
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Amazon.com: 74 reviews
115 of 127 people found the following review helpful
As Good as it Could Be Sept. 2 2011
By Tiger CK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China is a deeply researched and finely detailed portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century. As Vogel demonstrates, Deng Xiaoping's life and achievements are perhaps the best window for understanding the evolution of Asian politics and society over the last thirty years. Although there are still many aspects of Deng's life and policies that this book does not tell us, it does about as good a job as possible at describing Deng's life with the resources that are available.

Vogel generally depicts Deng as a pragmatic and farsighted manager. He did not see his role as coming up with new ideas, according to Vogel, but attached the greatest need to devising and implementing a new system. Although the book spends some time covering Deng's early life and the role that he played in the CCP during the Mao Zedong years, its focus is generally where it should be--on Deng's policies during his years in power.

The book is mostly divided into four main parts. The first covers "Deng's Rise to the Top" and focuses heavily on Deng's rise within the CCP from the early days of the CCP during the 1930s through the 1970s when Deng finally took command of the party. The second section on "Creating the Deng Era" focuses heavily on Deng's foreign policy during the late 1970s. It analyzes how improving relations with Japan, the United States, and Europe along with China's more general opening helped to create the context needed for economic growth. Vogel was able to find some very interesting materials for this section from the book, especially from the Carter Library. The third main part of the book on "the Deng Era" looks in detail at how Deng governed China and how his policies led to the beginnings of the PRC's economic and industrial transformation. Through a careful analysis of Deng's papers and the comments of his underlings, Vogel points to several elements of Dengs governing style that enabled him to become a success. He spoke and acted with authority, defended the party, maintained a unified command structure and set short term policies in light of long term goals. Although Deng led what was essentially a party state, Vogel, a political scientist, seems to hint that there were many aspects of Deng's leadership style that political leaders in Western democracies might learn from. The final section on "Challenges to the Deng Era" looks at the emergence of the democratic movement in China and how Deng responded to it. Here, of course, Vogel takes us through a difficult period in Chinese history and gives an honest analysis behind the reasons that Deng's government eventually encountered democratic protests and how Deng responded to them.

Generally, this is a sympathetic biography of Deng. Vogel sees China's opening and economic transformation as good things that could not have occurred without Deng's unique style of leadership. At the same time Vogel is careful to avoid turning the book into a complete hagiography. The most controversial chapters deal with the democratic challenge, the Tiananmen protests and how Deng dealt with these events. The author tries to be balanced here. He notes that despite the tragedy that occurred at Tiananmen, China subsequently enjoyed great social stability and rapid economic growth. At the same time, however, he notes that demands for political freedom in China have still not been completely satisfied. Both of these are part of Deng's legacy.

Despite Vogel's prodigious research, however, it becomes clear in some places in this biography that he was working under limitations. The author spent many months in Beijing conducting interviews and collecting available materials. But still the vast majority of the printed materials used by the author are published material. Some of the best Chinese scholars have managed to get a limited number of archival materials through persistent efforts to work with archivists in China and Vogel draws on their work. But Vogel himself does not seem to have gotten access to many Chinese archives that cover this period. For some serious China scholars eager to learn things about Deng that are completely new this might come as a disappointment. There are certainly places where some readers might crave a more detailed account of meetings that took place and the thinking that went into certain policies on the Chinese side. Vogel often does a good job of hinting at what these might have been. But he does not always have the materials that he needs to fully make his case. Hopefully, in the future, China will continue to open up its archives and historians will be able to draw up even more detailed accounts of Deng's strategic thinking about both foreign and domestic policy.

Nevertheless, these limitations are not really Vogel's fault but are generally inherent in writing about such a recent and, in many ways, controversial topic in Chinese history. For now, this is the best biography of Deng Xiaoping that we have and it sheds a great deal of light on the transformative role played by Deng Xiaoping in the creation of modern China. It is the best biography that Vogel could have written about Deng at this time.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Excellent but flawed book Feb. 27 2012
By Christian Kober - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Finally a biography of Deng Xiaoping, arguably the most influential leader, at least by number of lives influenced. I do not want to dwell too much on the merits of this biography, which other reviewers have commented on enough. Obviously this is a major work and deserves four stars. A must read for everyone interested in modern Chinese history.
Why not five stars? First of all, the hand of a stricter editor might had been helpful. There are not only unnecessary redundancies and lengths, there are also trivial mistakes not becoming such a book, e.g. Jiang Qing died not as early as claimed in the book.
Secondly there is little said about the life of Deng before 1977. I assume that sources are difficult to find, yet his role in the '100 flowers' period is well known. Also at least the author should have commented why he does not focus much on the period before 1975. Is it lack of resources or is it that the author wanted to have a clear focus on Deng's later years? At least he should tell the reader.
Thirdly and most importantly, the book is almost a hagiography of Deng. Is there really nothing to criticize about the man? Not in moral terms - but did he not commit mistakes? Did he really achieve the reversal of China's fortunes singlehandedly? Deng was an astounding person and achieved much. At his age to completely reverse course is a feat which will always amaze me.
To summarize, given the few sources available the book is certainly an outstanding feat. A more balanced view of would have ensured it to be a perfect success within these constraints of source availability.
41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding! Sept. 25 2011
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
'Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China' not only provides a credible summary of how China entered the modern world, but also very useful lessons in large-scale organizational change and macro-economics. Author Vogel, Harvard professor emeritus, contends that Deng Xiaoping may have had the greatest long-term impact on world history than anyone else in the 20th century. His pragmatic, driving force behind China's radical transformation lifted millions out of poverty and reshaped global politics. First, however, he had to address the damage done by the Cultural Revolution (CR), end the Mao personality cult with its emphasis on mass mobilizations, class warfare, ideology, intensive collectivization, and central planning, revive agriculture (grain production/person when Deng too over in 1978 was less than that in 1957), and undo the economic system (price and wage controls, central planning) he had helped build. There was also a widespread problem of unqualified military officials and rebels having assumed leadership functions during the Cultural Revolution, factories that still operated did so with 1950s Soviet technology that was in disrepair, universities having essentially been closed for a decade, and no jobs for the educated youth that had been sent out to the countryside during the CR.

Deng's transformation focused not on holding Mao responsible, but the economic and political system that had tried to reach down to exert control at both the household and small enterprise levels. Deng opened China to science, technology, management systems, and ideas from anywhere. He also realized that China's economic problems could not be solved simply by opening markets - institutions had to be built gradually. He saw his job not as coming up with new operational ideas, but devising and implementing a new system, along with selecting a core of co-workers. He also had to provide hope without raising unrealistic expectations, and pace change so as not to split the nation - all while maintaining stability in employment. Deng's credibility was built on the poise of having been a former high-ranking wartime leader (12 years) and Long March survivor, spending half a century near the center of power (Deng was 74 when he became head of China in 1978), and previously leading initial performance improvements in China's railroad, coal, and steel industries. Amazingly, Deng also had been purged three times by Mao - once for eight years, and the last time shortly before Mao's death.

Mao made Deng Vice-Premier in 1975 when China was still recovering from the Cultural Revolution (CR). During that period young people had been mobilized to attack high-level officials and push them aside, plunging the nation into chaos. One of Deng's first moves was to tell the PLA to end internal struggles between CR supporters and opponents and instead focus on their assignments - those that failed to do so would be replaced. Deng also brought back many of the 25,000 former officers 'wrongly accused' in the CR. Deng also downsized the military by 20% to help pay for weapons upgrades, and helped those displaced to find new jobs; he kept all those in the Air Force, Navy, and the Army's technical experts, and resumed training activities. Deng also was careful to obtain Mao's approval for all his major actions. Deng then took on the railroads - they had offended Mao by delaying one of his trips by a week, and were also creating delay problems throughout the economy. Deng focused first on the worst railroad group in terms of accidents and delays, again went through the warning on factionalism, arrested the most cantankerous leaders, improved worker living conditions, made clear that neither position nor seniority would protect against adverse actions for failure to perform, brought in PLA troops to enforce compliance, and canceled CR verdicts on some 6,000 former workers/managers. Performance doubled. Then it was on to coal, China's primary source of energy. Coal had piled up because of poor rail transportation and miners had quit digging. After coal came steel - performance did not meet targets, but did improve about 10%. (After Deng's 1978 visit to Japan, during which he saw their much more modern equipment and methods, he never again relied on exhortation to improve performance - instead, the emphasis was on technology and methods.)

Deng also moved to select for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) membership those who could contribute, and replace those who got there for participating in the CR. He required members have 10+ years experience, and also removed military personnel from civilian positions. Deng continued to emphasize logical arguments acceptable to Mao, checked everything major with Mao before implementation, including revisions suggested by Mao. He continued Zhou En-Lai's 1963 'Four Modernizations' (agriculture, industry, national defense, science and technology) that essentially equated to economic self-reliance by the early 21st century. Foreign technology was sought out, incentives given workers (performance, difficulty, hazardousness), propaganda personnel were removed from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, universities re-opened (the few that were open had switched to admission via nomination instead of examination; achievement again became the criterion; at the time, China's Peking University had been judged about the equivalent of a U.S. junior college).

However, in January 1976 Deng was purged again (replaced by Hua Guofeng) after the Gang of Four and Mao's nephew played on Mao's insecurities (eg. Kruschev had publicly downgraded Stalin after the latter's death, and Mao was near death himself) - Deng knew he could have avoided being purged if he'd just publicly stated that he supported Mao's CR, but Deng refused to do so. The 'good news' is that after Mao's death months afterward, the new Premier, with strong support from top leaders, had Jiang Qing (Mao's last wife) and the rest of the 'Gang of Four' arrested (they had antagonized most everyone), along with their 30 most loyal followers and put on trial. This precluded factional stalemate at the top leadership level, and unwittingly helped set the stage for Deng's return.

Hua supported opening China to the West, a reduced role for ideology, and more emphasis on modernization than class struggle. However, he had little experience in Beijing, none in foreign affairs, and little in military affairs. He also didn't support the scale of return of senior officials under Deng. Deng, for his part, accepted Hua's new role, and was allowed to champion the modernization of science, which he saw as key to to modernizing the other three. Deng quickly ended the practice of having high-school graduates do two years of physical labor before attending college - "the students (forget) half of what they learned in school." He also immediately revived the use of entrance exams for college - there were spaces for only 5.8% of those that took the test. Examinations were later expanded to also select for top elementary and high schools. Worker propaganda teams and troops quartered at universities (a CR leftover) were removed to remove them as a source of conflict. Professors' physical labor and political education requires were lowered to one-day/week. Deng used Chinese-American scientists for guidance on how to improve. The Central Party School was also reopened in 1977, and began allowing more open discussions than previously.

Deng returned to the top position in 1978, and began encouraging CCP leaders to visit other nations to increase their awareness of how far behind China was, and thereby their receptivity to changes in thinking. Yugoslavia was included because it had improved while maintaining socialism, lessening the potential perceived threats by party hardliners. Deng visited Hong Kong, and when informed of the large numbers of Chinese escaping to Hong Kong, directed a focus on improving China's economy rather than a stronger fence - this led to China's first Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Returning 'tourists' decided to begin my improving China's textiles and apparel industries. Deng set the background, stating "If we can't grow faster than the capitalist countries then we can't show the superiority of our system." Criticism of the Gang of Four was stopped to allow focus on increasing production. Deng also noted that 'some would get rich first' - they should then help others. He also pointed out that moral appeals for initiative (Mao's approach) only lasted a short time - they needed to provide rewards and promotions as well. His fellow CCP leaders were worried about repeating mistakes such as Mao's Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolutions - thus, they were slow to change Deng's titles to reflect his new position.

Deng himself also visited Japan and the U.S. His Chinese media entourage helped ameliorate negative attitudes towards Japan and the U.S., and spread awareness of China's backwardness. Deng personally worked to create a foundation for partnerships and learning. Japan and the U.S. were particularly receptive to China, seeing the opportunity to draw it away from the Soviets. Deng helped minimize opposition to change in China by using the term 'management' instead of 'Western ways,' and constantly committing to socialism and the CCP. He viewed the U.S. separation of powers as a terribly inefficient way to run China. Normalizing relations with U.S. was made more difficult because of their 'one China' policy vs. Taiwan. Secretary Vance helped Deng over this bump by suggesting that, over time, Americans would come to agree with the 'one China' perspective.

Deng conducted most of his work transforming China at home, beginning the day reading reports and newspapers, then often meeting with people in the afternoon. He attended few meetings, preferring instead to either send his assistant or rely on written comments previously made to those leading the meetings; this was partly due to his being hard of hearing, partly due his age, and probably also a better use of his time. Prior to giving major speeches, Deng cleared them with other top CCP officials, especially those involving economics. Mao's 'management secrets' started with maintaining respect for the CCP by reining in criticisms of the past or present (both within the CCP, and of its leaders), building public support before promoting path-breaking policies, avoiding taking the blame - subordinates were expected to do this, not having to face short-term elections, focusing criticisms on implementation as much as possible instead of policy, avoiding separation of powers (eg. U.S. - Congress, President, Supreme Court), pushing out those committed to old ways (mostly via mandatory retirement, enticed via providing housing and recreation centers), using think tanks and experimental trials (eg. 'let's see how it goes' vs. workers released from farm work joining small firms that sometimes exceeded Marx's admonition over having more than 7 employees; creating 'Special Economic Zones' - SEZs) instead of starting with risky mass changes, being careful to get accurate information (trusted sources, outside experts) - avoiding problems during the 'Great Leap Forward' caused by officials unwilling to tell Mao of problems, taking small steps, using aphorisms to explain complex/contentious issues (eg. not caring whether a cat was black or white, as long as it caught mice; some people will get rich first; crossing the river by feeling the stones), maintaining reasonable expectations, sensitivity to those wanting to repeat adverse historical experiences, presenting his policy as a sound middle course (eg. 'starving peasants [in 1979] should be allowed to find a way to survive' vs. those wanting continued collectivization of agriculture), deferring some troublesome problems until later (eg. Taiwan) for 'smarter generations,' temporarily backing off from change when problems/strong opposition occurred, and soliciting/accepting economic advice - an area he was not that familiar with. In addition, he never wavered in clearly preserving socialism - first by maintaining public ownership of land, precluding capitalists from dominating politics, beginning with a large economic role for 'state-owned enterprises' (SOEs) in key industry areas, and assuring that Chinese firms would not be displaced by foreign businesses as they had in the 1930s. Finally, Deng emphasized results - TV was just coming to China and its populace became quite impressed seeing SEZ skyscrapers. (Deng thought Gorbachev made a major error by setting out to change the political system first - this maximized opposition while providing little/nothing in improvements; actually, Russia's initial foray into overhauling systems was a disaster because it was unable to handle the results of immediate, massive change).

Mao had moved much of China's industrial base inland out of fear of invasion - Deng returned production to coastal areas with their improved access to shipping and better infrastructure. Another early, major change came when Deng learned that thousands had been imprisoned for trying to escape into Hong Kong. Deng's response was to stop trying to 'build a better fence,' but instead improve their economic opportunities. This led to talks and agreement to establish the first SEZ across from Hong Kong, with relaxed regulations; the first project involved a native Chinese entrepreneur who had moved to Hong Kong, yet was a member of the Communist Party, and whose project (scrapping unwanted Chinese ships for their steel) did not require much investment. Other projects soon followed - the timing was perfect because Hong Kong was running out of labor. Three other SEZs soon followed. Early lessons learned by government officials were that businesses preferred 'one-stop decision-centers' to obtain permits, arrange infrastructure, etc., areas where officials kept their promises, and labor, fees, etc. charges were kept reasonable. By 1984, the four SEZs became 18, Taiwan dropped its ban on doing business with the mainland and its businesses became major investors in China, and one SEZ even eliminated set prices on many foods (prices rose, then fell back after supply increased).

Peasant income roughly doubled between 1978 - 1982, thanks to household contracting replacing collectivization, reduced taxes, a 20% increase in prices paid for their products, and the doubling of fertilizer availability. The small commune workshops and stores that had been part of collectivization became 'Town/Village Enterprises' (TVEs) owned by local governments, but no longer bound by the former commune's former area. TVEs went from 28.3 million workers in 1978 to 105.8 million in 1992; their advantage over SOEs was not having to provide housing, health care, or schooling. Unemployment resulting from improved agricultural productivity/no longer requiring students to gain humility from working the earth also spread to urban centers, the violation of Marx's caveat on 'large' firms, and another unplanned experiment that helped Deng's cause. (The 1987 Party Congress then officially made these 'larger' firms legal - potentially highly contentious debate was side-stepped, both by the experiment and Deng's duck aphorism wondering why a farmer was a socialist with three ducks, but then became a capitalist with four.)

Deng set and pursued a goal of increasing year 2000 GDP to a level 4X its 1984 level; the more cautious leaders objected, and he ignored them - though he also asked the World Bank for an opinion on its feasibility. The Soviet Union and Mao both had sent few students abroad, worrying about a 'brain drain' - Deng did not, and very quickly had tens of thousands of Chinese students abroad. McNamara and others convinced Deng that the World Bank didn't work for the U.S., and Deng eagerly accepted its help - beginning with arranging training for Chinese economists. Visiting East European economists convinced the Chinese to not try dramatic all at once restructuring, and suggested using 'dual-pricing' (production over quota could be priced at market) as a transitional tactic. Japan was another major learning source, thanks to its transition from a tightly managed post-war economy to free-markets.

Deng's stocked soared further when he negotiated a peaceful return of Hong Kong in 1984; he also shifted his definition of 'socialism' to 'public ownership' instead of central planning, and emphasized common prosperity instead of egalitarianism. Deng, however, made a major miscalculation in 1988 by freeing many prices in an effort to avoid corruption by those taking advantage of the dual prices - inflation soared to 26% because the production couldn't meet new demand, he was forced to reverse the decision, the ground was set for Tiananmen in 1989, transformation slowed, and Deng lost face vs. his much more cautious counterparts.
41 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Needs an editor Nov. 27 2011
By Law student - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book covers an important topic and appears to be as well researched as it could be without access to Chinese archives [thus compared to biographies of Soviet leaders written by historians lucky enough to peak into Russia between Yeltins' thaw and Putin's re-Brezhnevization this books is just not as good.]

Deng is obviously an important man but the book borders very very neatly on to hagiography. There are no mistakes, and all his accomplishments are both pragmatic, far reaching and for the good of China. [Cooperating with Pol Pot? Why "Pol Pot had a terrible international reputation for his wanton killing, but in Deng's view, he was the only Cambodian with enough troops to be a useful ally against Vietnam". And why worry about Vietnam? Because they are too ungrateful for all the great help the Chinese provided to them during the war...]

Every foreign policy goal is an unmitigated triumph and despite some setbacks -- all caused by Mao -- eventually all goals have been achieved and all enemies smashed. Of his earlier life almost nothing is written, a mere 150 pages to get us to the 1970s.

The main problem with the book is that it needs a good editor. The writing at times feels down right clumsy and quite frankly repetitive in a number of places. For example, the book covers a visit to North Korea in 3 pages when a paragraph could have easily explained everything necessary and even left space for another pro-Deng comment.

But this could all be due to the writer's need to maintain open lines of communications with Chinese interlocutors who understandably revere Deng. Perhaps when enough times passes an authoritative book on this complicated man can be written without the need for political cover and this version certainly serves as an excellent stop-gap measure before that time.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Excellent biography of Deng Oct. 21 2011
By Mr. Leong Wai Hong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Deng was a giant of a man. Not in size but in stature. He was the man who ensured China grew to be a economic power house within 20 years after his death. What is remarkable is that he only became paramount leader after he was released from exile imposed during the Cultural Revolution. So he started ruling China at the ripe age of 73.

This just released 700 page biography is a very readable book. It is written in a chronological manner. Not much is known of Deng's life as his modus operandi is not to leave notes but to commit all records to memory. This was his means to stay alive.
I highly recommend this book as the previous biography by Richard Evans was published way back in 1994.

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