It took Deng Xiaoping's death for Guangan to see that growing rich really is glorious. The past two years have seen a remarkable transformation in Deng's home town, which until recently languished as one of the poorest places in China even as the country grew wealthy from his economic reforms. Until his death from Parkinson's disease in 1997 at age 92, Deng insisted that Guangan was not to receive special treatment. Without help from its most famous native son, the city in northern Sichuan had little more going for it other than the peasants who grow corn and pistachio nuts on the surrounding hillsides. The trickle of tourists who braved the five-hour drive from Chongqing over crumbling mountain roads were often stunned to find the home of the man responsible for China's economic boom had gone bust. As a sign of how bad things were, the local government admitted in 1997 that 2,500 families in the area were without homes or lived in caves. But times have changed, and so have Guangan's fortunes. The approach of the 100th anniversary of Deng's birth on August 22 has seen billions of yuan poured into a makeover to create a city worthy of his legacy. 'Many of my business friends say it is unbelievable to see what has happened in Guangan,' said Deng Xianyan , the leader's cousin and only immediate family member still living in the area. 'Two years ago people said Guangan was still in poverty ... I think that if Deng Xiaoping was still alive today he would be extremely excited to see what has happened.' The past few months alone have seen a presidential-looking library open along with several hotels, including the five-star Swan. There are towering new buildings for the local People's Congress, Communist Party and city government. A new expressway to Chongqing will cut travelling time between the cities to 90 minutes when it opens this summer. Manicured boulevards line Guangan's streets along with immaculate new parks and monuments. Massive pictures of Deng look out from billboards and residents even boast of a few millionaires in the city of 1.1 million. A banner on the main road into town reads, 'No Dirty Cars Allowed', forming a barrier to keep out the grinding poverty of the surrounding countryside. Since the start of the year, tourists have been coming to Guangan by the busload to mark the 100th anniversary of Deng's birth, many of them from Guangdong, Shenzhen and other regions that benefited the most from Deng's policies. More than 400,000 visitors arrived during the May Golden Week holiday. The transformation of Guangan is most evident in Deng's home village of Paifang. Most of the community where Deng spent his boyhood is now gone - demolished two years ago to make way for a 54-hectare Deng museum and park, which is still under construction. The community's 348 families moved across the road to New Paifang Village, built especially for them, and are now happily cashing in on Deng's legacy. Zhou Han and his wife, Li Zhengjie , used to be farmers but now run a restaurant and guesthouse for tourists. Their eight beds rent out for up to 60 yuan a night - an impressive sum in a place where per-capita annual income is about 1,500 yuan. 'Life is much better for us now,' Ms Li said. 'Our rooms are booked every weekend.' Smacking his hands for emphasis, Mr Zhou listed the benefits of living in New Paifang: better roads, gas for cooking, electricity, modern homes, water and sewerage - even broadband internet access. Still, not everyone believes that Deng would be pleased with what has become of Guangan. In the years before his death, Deng repeatedly blocked attempts to turn the city into a monument to his achievements. He never fully explained his reasons, but it was partly due to his insistence that he not be deified like Mao Zedong . 'When he was asked why he did not give an order to develop Guangan, he only smoked and kept silent,' said Deng Xianyan. 'Later, he said future generations would know best how to develop Guangan.' But in the years following Deng's death, local officials were still hesitant to act. It took five years before the nation's craving to enshrine Deng's place in history overcame concerns about the diminutive paramount leader's wishes. Guangan's makeover started in 2002 on the orders of party secretary Tan Li . Many locals credit him with turning the city's fortunes around, starting with the decision to build the new Deng museum and park on the site of Deng's old family estate. But others say the money began to flow after visits that same year by Deng's eldest daughter, Deng Nan , a vice-minister of science and technology, and Ding Guangen , a former Politburo member and Deng's bridge-playing partner. Whatever the cause, the transformation of Guangan into monument to Deng is almost complete. In the past few months, Politburo Standing Committee members Wu Bangguo and Jia Qinlin have visited to pay homage to Deng and dedicate parts of the park. Both former president Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao are rumoured to be coming to see the museum before next month's anniversary, which will be marked with a celebration attended by a host of officials and Deng family members. Virtually every government department, party body and national leader has latched on to Deng's legacy by sponsoring part of the park and museum. Their names appear on monuments, trees and signs. Mr Jiang's calligraphy is displayed prominently in the park, and even on the 30 yuan admission tickets. Yet even with its makeover, the economic future of Guangan remains uncertain. Tourism boom aside, many residents see the city as an economic backwater and complain it is hard to find a decent job. The surrounding county remains poor enough to receive foreign aid handouts, including a 2 million yuan reforestation project paid for by Japan this year. The city's infrastructure has also started to strain under increasing demand, with power shortages leaving Mr Zhou, Ms Li and the rest of Paifang sweltering in the dark one recent night - the air conditioners in their new homes silent and useless. The next day much of Guangan was without electricity. The fear is that when the anniversary passes the city will return to its past lethargy, becoming little more than a Potemkin village built to honour a man who refused to bring it along on his march to greatness.