Deng steps gingerly into Peking's new year celebration: Chinese leader's television walk-on to greet Year of the Dog reinforces health fears and speculation on succession

A FRAIL Deng Xiaoping, walking stiffly and supported by two of his daughters, appeared on Chinese state-run television last night to mark the start of the new year celebrations. It was the first time in more than a year that news film of the 89-year-old leader had been shown on television.

Mr Deng's customary Chinese New Year appearance did little, however, to dispel rumours that his health remains fragile. His voice was not broadcast and conversations with him were shown being conducted through one of his daughters, who shouted comments from officials into his left ear and then interpreted his replies. Mr Deng walked slowly, did not appear able to turn his head and his right eye looked droopy in some shots.

He was shown greeting guests at a reception in Shanghai yesterday to mark the start of the Year of the Dog. The television commentary enthus iastically described Mr Deng as 'full of vigour and sure-footed' despite some pictures showing him looking blankly into space. He looked more lively in footage filmed on a drizzly December day two months ago when he visited the new Yangpu suspension bridge in Shanghai.

So little is known by the public of Mr Deng's health that the annual television appearance is always scrutinised. Mr Deng remains the most influential power-broker in Chinese politics even though he holds no official titles except honorary head of the Chinese Bridge-playing Association. There is considerable uncertainty over which faction will emerge pre-eminent after his death.

As well as showing the paramount leader, the evening news programme featured Chen Yun, 88, the party elder behind whom hardliners group in opposition to the fast-track economic reform programme of Mr Deng. Mr Chen was quoted as saying that 'there are still quite a few difficulties and problems' in China and stressed the need for strong central government.

Strong central government was in force last night in Peking where, along with 22 other cities, the Chinese New Year was welcomed without the traditional midnight fireworks to frighten off evil spirits. Peking banned fireworks last December on safety grounds and thousands of anti-firework patrols have been on the streets.

Chinese New Year is a family occasion when relatives gather at home for a large banquet but in previous years, for 30 minutes after midnight, Peking has let go its frustrations, with fireworks lighting up the urban skyline.

Last night the emphasis was instead on watching television. A tacit agreement between the China Central Television Station and Peking Television Station to alternate their gala shows has been scrapped in the competitive world of a reforming China and both were vying for viewers with variety shows last night. For those with the stamina, in the next four days there will be 24-hour broadcasting on two channels including 30 evening gala shows.

Man's best friend has little to look forward to in the Year of the Dog. In the cities, pedigree dogs are now status symbols and sell for hundreds of pounds, but the authorities are now cracking down on people owning pets. In the south, dogs face a more grisly end. Dog-meat remains a common foodstuff. The traditional belief is that it should be eaten in winter in order to keep warm.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own