Ezra F. Vogel, a Harvard professor specializing in Far East affairs, has won the 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize for his book about China under Deng Xiaoping.

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Ezra Vogel has won the Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international relations. (Belknap Press)

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, published by Harvard’s Belknap Press, was named winner on Monday of the literary award honouring the best book on international affairs.

The prize, a $15,000 award named for late Canadian diplomat Lionel Gelber, is presented annually by the Lionel Gelber Foundation, Foreign Policy magazine and the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Vogel’s book examines how the Chinese leader confronted the damage wrought by Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted China’s growth. The leader's move to push modernization and ease trade relations with the West lifted hundreds of millions of his countrymen out of poverty.

"The rise of China as a mighty global economic power, which now seems so inexorable, was never foreordained," said George Russell, executive editor of Fox News and chair of the five-person Gelber Prize jury.

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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China examines how the Chinese leader loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted his country's growth. (Belknap Press)

"That it happened, and how it happened, depended enormously on the wiles, stratagems and vision of the short, pugnacious man who is the subject of this deeply informed book by one of the West’s most important Asia scholars."

Vogel won in a field that included another book on China by Nobel Prize-winner Henry Kissinger.

The other contenders were:

  • On China by former U.S. secretary of state Kissinger.
  • A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War by historian Amanda Foreman.
  • Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Frederick Kempe of Washington, D.C., president of the Atlantic Council.
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis, an American scholar of the Cold War.

Vogel will receive his award and deliver the annual Lionel Gelber Prize lecture on March 15 at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto.