As China's paramount leader for nearly 20 years, Deng Xiaoping guided theMiddle Kingdom toward a future that combined market-oriented economic reforms and authoritarian rule. But his death in February raised many questions for the world's most populous country, including how long President Jiang Zemin and other Communist leaders are likely to hold power. In addition, China's fast-growing economy may slow down significantly. The nation also is preparing for China's historic takeover of British Hong Kong, which reverts to Chinese rule on July 1. Whether theWestern-oriented city state will retain its uniqueness – and whether it will influence mainland China's tepid steps toward a more pluralistic society or cause problems for Jiang –are questions that only time will answer.