Comparing historical figures enlightens even when it discomfits. No American relishes comparing a George Washington or an Abraham Lincoln to, say, a tyrant such as Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin. Yet likenesses between foreign leaders and the greats of U.S. diplomatic and military history can be striking and informative. Ferreting out differences repays the effort as well.
Exhibit A: Deng Xiaoping. Beginning in the late 1970s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) premier played a part in China’s national development similar in noteworthy respects to the part Washington played in the early U.S. republic. In particular, Deng masterminded China’s “reform and opening” project, an initiative designed to rejuvenate the country’s moribund economy and clean up the wreckage from founding CCP chairman Mao Zedong’s cataclysmic reign.