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Deng's economic reforms: now that's entertainment

Coming soon! To the Great Hall of the People! You've read the theory of ''socialism with Chinese characteristics''. Now see the first all-singing, all-dancing version, the show 1.2 billion Chinese have been waiting for: Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms - the musical.

Following in the great tradition of Chinese politico-musical ideological extravaganzas, The Tide of the East (Dongfang Chao) is a show for the pragmatic Nineties. The ''East'' is China; the ''Tide'' is the economic reforms of the past 15 years. The subject is epic. But what of the show?

The Tide of the East will eventually include three full-length performances. Part one, The Special Economic Zones, will be premiered early next year in Peking's Great Hall of the People. Part two, Rural Reforms, is a spirited evocation of how Mr Deng's ''household responsibility system'' transformed peasant livelihoods. It will be ready a year later. Part three, The Return of Hong Kong, which celebrates the closing chapter in Britain's ''shameful'' colonial history, will be shown before 1997, when sovereignty reverts to China.

Thirty years ago, The East is Red, a musical, celebrated the 1949 victory of the Communist revolutionaries under the banner of Chairman Mao. In similar fashion The Tide of the East will laud the achievements of Mr Deng, China's ailing 90-year-old paramount leader.

Featuring 160 ''prestigious'' dancers and more than 10 national popular and classical singing stars, The Special Economic Zones will illustrate just how Mr Deng launched the experimental zones and how they multiplied across China and brought forth economic abundance.

The performance, which will last two to three hours, is understood to incorporate excerpts alluding to joint ventures, signing contracts, setting up businesses and stock exchanges.

But, given the political sensitivity of the material, the final script has yet to be agreed. The opening was billed for next week but has been postponed until early next year. Last month representatives from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Propaganda attended a rehearsal and suggested that amendments were necessary.