HONG KONG (AP) _ Deng Xiaoping, China's 89-year-old leader who hasn't been seen in public for 11 months, visited Shanghai this month and called for fast growth, a newspaper said Friday.

Deng praised Shanghai's economic reforms and said ''all obstacles to reform should be removed,'' the English-language South China Morning Post said, quoting Chinese sources.

It said Deng also warned the central government in Beijing to re-establish its authority over the provinces, some of which have used their economic strength to chart increasingly independent courses.

The date of the visit wasn't given. It would add weight to repeated assurances from Deng's family and government officials that he is relatively healthy.

Deng is believed to have various ailments, and rumors of his imminent death are rife in Beijing. His last public appearance was in January, at Lunar New Year celebrations in Shanghai.

Deng is the driving force behind the economic modernization that has transformed the nation in the past 15 years.

A Chinese state newspaper used the nationwide campaign marking the centenary of the birth of Mao Tse-tung, the founder of Communist China, to boost the image of Deng - the man who undid many of his policies.

China's influential Economic Daily ran a lengthy interview Friday with a leading academic recalling Mao's praise for Deng. Beijing professor Gong Yuzhi also drew parallels between China's two supreme leaders.

Mao remains respected by many as a patriot who freed China from a decade of foreign aggression and occupation in 1949.

When Deng came to power, he scrapped Mao's policies of violent class struggle and egalitarianism in favor of economic development that allowed some to get rich first.

Depicting Deng as Mao's natural successor is part of the effort to ensure him a favorable place in history.