DENG Rong seems to have joined the growing number of China watchers scrambling to have the definitive Deng Xiaoping book out before the day of reckoning. As the youngest child and private secretary of the patriarch - and the most politically astute of the five Deng offspring - Ms Deng has an unbeatable inside track. My Father, Deng Xiaoping, which will be published in Beijing, Hong Kong and overseas early next month, promises to lift the veil off Mr Deng, who, in spite of his international status, is extremely laconic about his past. The 460,000-character tome, however, has raised questions about historical if not personal integrity. While the more superstitious among Deng fans may be jolted by the coincidence of the book's appearance with the spate of rumours about the old man's imminent rendezvous with Marx, others are alarmed by its feudalistic elements. This is despite the fact that the amateur historian, who is a medical school graduate and one-time Washington-based diplomat, is often credited with exercising a generally liberal influence on the senior leader. Ms Deng, 43, has toed the time-honoured - and very un-Marxist - line of court scribes and apologists that history is the handiwork of a coterie of demigods. While most of My Father only covers Mr Deng's exploits up to 1949 (a sequel will take us up to the early 90s), the author has eloquently laid the claim that the Sichuan-born titan is the only Communist-Chinese leader whose protean contributions have edified three revolutionary generations. Mr Deng was not only present at the creation of the party in the 20s and 30s but the prophet-reformer who rectified its mistakes and ushered it into 21st century. The First Daughter reveals that from the early 30s, when he was hardly 20, Mr Deng began attending politburo meetings in a secret hideout in Shanghai. ''There was a desk near the window and I sat at a chair next to it during [major Central Committee] meetings,'' Ms Deng quoted her father as saying. Much of the tome is devoted to the larger-than-life dimensions of Mr Deng as he took part in the Long March, fought the party's early manifestations of leftism, and made mincemeat of the troops of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. As writer Li Ping - believed to be close to the Deng family - summed it up in his review of the book in the Chinese-run magazine Bauhinia: ''Deng Xiaoping is, in an important aspect, a representative of his age. That great era can be seen through [the life of] Deng.'' The Deng Rong school of historians seems oblivious of the fact that, according to Marx, history is the result of shifts in ''production relations'' and technology, the summation of the sweat and tears of the toiling masses rather than the feats of supermen. A jarring corollary of this l'etat, c'est moi approach to historiography is that it is both natural and legitimate to pass the sceptre from one monarch-like figure to the next. Mr Deng confides to his daughter that the late premier Zhou Enlai, who introduced him to Communism, was his hero. When asked who had had the most impact on him when he was studying in France in the 20s, Mr Deng said unhesitatingly: ''Zhou Enlai.'' The patriarch recalled Mr Zhou's words before the dying premier underwent major surgery in 1975: ''Your performance the past year was great. You are much stronger than I.'' Cut to November 8, 1989, the day that Mr Deng announced to the politburo he was giving up his last remaining position of chairman of the party's Central Military Commission (CMC). After the patriarch posed for a picture with the elders and politburo members, the new CMC chairman, General Secretary Jiang Zemin, bade him farewell. Holding the hand of his mentor, Mr Jiang said: ''I will not spare the last bit of my energy; I will persevere unto death.'' The reader is reminded of that other famous episode in Communist-Chinese history: Chairman Mao on his death bed bestowing the crown on Hua Guofeng upon saying, ''With you in charge, my heart is at rest.'' Ms Deng has gone out of her way to dispel reports about her father's Mao-like, imperial pretensions. My Father contains moving vignettes of the New Helmsman as everyman, the mundane, often poignant emotions of Mr Deng after he has stepped down from his pedestal. Mr Deng's first words after he reportedly called it quits in 1989 was: ''After I retire, what I want most is to lead the life of an ordinary person - to live more simply, to be able to take walks on the streets and to go on tours.'' The tragedy about Mr Deng - and Communist China - of course, is that the system would not allow either Mr Deng or other helmsman to ''retire'', and that while Mr Deng might have handed over the crown, he had refused to part with the sceptre. Which leads us to the most disturbing thing about My Father: Mr Deng acquiescing in - if not consciously - erecting a personality cult that may dwarf that of his nemesis, Chairman Mao. Few believed the Helmsman when he protested during the latter part of the Cultural Revolution that he had nothing to do with the Mao cult, which had been built up by careerists like Marshal Lin Biao and Mao's wife, Jiang Qing. However, Mao at least reined in his children and relatives, none of whom held down top-echelon jobs or achieved front-rank prominence. A couple of years ago, however, Mr Deng broke his own pledge about forbidding his children to either take ministerial-level posts or to go into business in a big way. Thanks to her position as the virtual head of the Deng Xiaoping Office, Ms Deng is the eyes and ears of the ruler of one-fifth of mankind. Both she and her husband He Ping are reportedly China's premier red capitalists. My Father has violated an unspoken party regulation - which has been unfailingly observed since the 20s - against senior cadres writing autobiographies or allowing their offspring to pen hagiographic pieces when they were still alive. Late last month, Mr Deng thumbed his nose at another taboo when he permitted a research institute on Deng Thought, the Research Centre on Deng Xiaoping Theory within the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, to be set up. If, like the emperors before him, Mr Deng really believes that a Helmsman cannot only lick history into shape but dictate how it should be interpreted, the putative Marxist should be rudely - and speedily - disabused.