BELIEVE it or not, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping may have clocked more mileage than most Chinese in 1994. This son of Hakkas (meaning a settler from another province) has spent much of his time away from Beijing this year. He may not have come as far south as Shenzhen, as he did in 1992, but the 89-year-old appears to still have been restless, although doubts about his health have sent shockwaves through the party and country as the year has progressed. His schedule indicates he has not stayed in one city longer than two months during the past eight months. The patriarch kicked off in style, according to official Chinese reports, with a trip to Shanghai in December. On December 13, he inspected the newly-completed Yangpu Bridge and happily said that Shanghai - the ''dragon head'' of China - could develop faster. On New Year's Day, he went on a car ride with his family. He was so healthy - at least according to the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po - that he went to the top floor of the five-star Jinjiang Tower for a bird's-eye view of the east China city. The Deng blitz took a dramatic downturn during Lunar New Year. As in the past few years, Deng was shown on the national TV attending a gathering with Shanghai officials. But instead of bestowing his New Year's blessings on the cadres, Deng looked frail and did not seem able to respond to what was said to him. This sent jitters across the country and the lack of news in the following months fuelled rumours that the helmsman was dying. The Shanghai gathering was Deng's last public appearance. It is believed that he returned to Beijing in late February and stayed there for some time. From February until now, there have been few reports about his activities in the official media. Nevertheless, news leaked to the pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong said that Deng had expressed concern over the economy and called for a faster pace of development. Rumours of his death continued. His children repeatedly denied them, although Deng failed to make an appearance during the National People's Congress in March. After a brief return to Shanghai in April, the senior leader was reported by Wen Wei Po to have travelled to Qingdao, in Shandong province, in May. According to the report, he was accompanied by Liu Huaqing, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Deng expressed the view that China must not have a ''multi-party system''. However, that report was promptly denied by the Foreign Ministry, casting a further shadow over Deng's state of health. Press reports later said he was actually resting in Laoshan near Qingdao, enjoying the alkaline springs in the mountains. Despite his absence from Beijing, Deng was said to be kept informed of national affairs during his stays in Shanghai and Laoshan. Deng made the headlines in July when his comrade-in-arms North Korean president Kim Il-sung died. Along with President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng, Deng sent condolences from his Beijing home to the former Great Leader. It was also reported that he had returned to the seaside resort of Beidaihe, where he and other party elders gave advice to top Politburo members on the preparation of the fourth plenum of the 14th Communist Party congress.