An appointment delayed by 60 years



In June 1980, Deng Yingchao, then vice-president of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (APN), led an APN delegation to France and to the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. It was a 60-year delayed date. The late Prime Minister Zhou Enlai had always wanted to come back to France and recall the memories of his student life there. Now, this wish had to be granted by Deng on his behalf.

France attached great importance to Deng’s visit. President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing met her at the Elysee Palace. The President of the National Assembly Jacques Chaban-Delmas offered him a big welcoming ceremony. Delmas told Deng, “We all know that you are not only vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, but also wife of Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. The Prime Minister was well known to the French for his character and talent. You have helped him a lot. at work and showed remarkable qualities as his wife. “Deng praised the Sino-French friendship. She said,” France is where Comrade Zhou Enlai and Chinese leaders in exercise, which Deng Xiaoping and Nie Rongzhen studied and worked in their youth. It was there that they found much inspiration in their quest for the truth. French people. In the past, the Chinese and French people fought side by side side by side against fascism Today our peoples will work closely together in the same spirit to safeguard world peace.

Deng also attended the welcome reception offered by the mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac, who would later become French president. Chirac said: “Maintaining good relations with China is an important element of French foreign policy. and cultural fields. Deng fully agreed with Chirac. She said: “We also want to see a strong and united Europe and hope that Europe plays a bigger role in the world”. Deng’s visit to the European Parliament was the first visit to the institution by an AFN delegation. Mrs Simone Veil, President of the European Parliament, told Deng that the balance of international relations could only be guaranteed when China and the European Community took their positions in the world.

On a personal note, Deng’s visit to France was a 60-year delayed date. In 1920, Zhou Enlai went to study in France and Deng remained in China for the revolution and did not arrive in France. Zhou missed her more and more as the days went by. One day in 1923, Deng received a postcard from France in which Zhou confessed his affection to him. On the back of the postcard were the portraits of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Zhou wrote, “I hope that in the future we both die, like them, for the same great cause together …” The postcard was followed by hundreds of love letters sent by Zhou from France. And Deng’s responses were a source of strength for Zhou in his difficult days away from home.

Zhou Enlai and Deng Yingchao’s wedding photo

An important part of Deng’s visit to France was a visit to her husband’s memorials. She went to the small hotel where Zhou had lived, No. 17, rue Godefroy, in Paris. On the entrance wall is a plaque bearing the inscription of the three figures “Zhou Enlai” written by Deng Xiaoping. The plaque was affixed there in 1979 by the government of Paris at the initiative of the French government.

Deng walked up the narrow, winding stairs to Room 16 on the third floor. Zhou once lived and worked there, a 4.5 square meter room that could barely accommodate a single iron bed and chair. Deng looked out the window. After a long silence, she sat on the bed for a while and said to her entourage, “The Party branch in Europe used to meet here and some of the members would sit on the floor. Enlai has had very difficult days in Paris. and at night and often ate bread and still water. “

Deng said she would like to take a walk on the street. She entered a small restaurant. His entourage explained to the hostess that Deng was Zhou’s wife. The hostess was delighted and offered Deng some flowers she had just picked. Deng had a conversation with her and presented her with a Chinese porcelain plate. Today, the hostess’ son still carefully keeps Deng’s gift and photos, and proudly shares the story with all the Chinese diners who come to his restaurant.

A photo of elderly Deng Yingchao at work

A photo of elderly Deng Yingchao at work

The apple trees next to Xihua Hall in Zhongnanhai in Beijing had witnessed more moments of Zhou and Deng. Crabapple blossoms are calm but bright and zealous, just like Deng. One of his favorite lines portrays the mentality of an old communist well. He said, “After spring is not autumn; why worry about getting old? Give your life to the cause of the people, and you will not see your hair turn gray.”


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