So Deng Xiaoping has joined Saint-Just, Molotov, Himmler, Djilas, et al., in that niche of the nether regions reserved for the Unrepentant Accomplices of Ideology-Driven Mass Murderers. One hopes that the place is only a little less unpleasant than that inhabited by their bosses, Robespierre, Stalin, Hitler, Tito, and Company. The fact has been obscured in the mainstream media’s comments on Deng’s death, but the man was an important participant in Mao’s social engineering in the 1950’s and 60’s which—according to conservative estimates—killed 35 million Chinese men, women, and children.

Deng was a cunning actor in the lurid melodrama of Mao’s reign, which occasionally degenerated into a farce, but which was always, in the deepest sense, a human tragedy of colossal magnitude. His difference from his boss was merely one of style: Deng was a rough, hard man from Szechwan who shared something of Mao’s coarse brutality, but who was utterly devoid of Mao’s interest in politics as an art form. If he had a sense of humor, the secret only came out posthumously, with the announcement that he had bequeathed his organs for transplants and medical research.

While Mao was an “artist” (in the same sense as Hitler was one), Deng was an apparatchik. His dislike of political dramas—the grandest of which was the “cultural revolution” three decades ago—was pragmatic, never moral or aesthetic. Whereas Mao was sometimes abstruse, and often aspired to being profound, Deng’s quotations were unsuitable for a book, little red or otherwise (e.g., on Marxist ideologues: “They sit on the lavatory and can’t even manage to sh-t”). His dislike of “shouting and yelling” was fully applied in 1989 to China’s equivalent of Kent State, Tiananmen Square. Deng understood politics in its undiluted form, had no scruples, no “vision thing” beyond being in charge, and no morality. In short, he was someone the United States government could do business with.

So much more the pity, then, that Madeleine Albright’s visit to Peking came too late for this wanna-be Metternich to meet Deng. She would have found him a kindred spirit. She, too, believes that ends justify means, and that human life has no intrinsic value, vis. her reply to a question on 60 Minutes (May 12, 1996) about the death of a half-million Iraqi children as a result of American sanctions: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, is worth it.” She, too, understands that “ideology”—which in her scheme of things includes religion, of which she has had three so far—must be subservient to the quest for power, and its exercise.

A meeting with 91-year-old Deng would have been useful to the new Secretary of State’s career: he could have dampened her youthful zeal for hyperactivity and confrontation. He would have brushed off her platitudes on “human rights” with a knowing smile. But alas! This was not to be.

At the very least, Mrs. Albright should follow the grand man’s footsteps in his recipe for longevity, and take up smoking two packs of high-tar, filter-free cigarettes every day. This would make her instantly popular in the Carolinas, and maybe—just maybe—inject a healthy dose of memento mori into her besoin de faire quelque chose. In that way Deng may yet perform a favor to the American people, and possibly ease the discomfort of his present abode.