News & Current Affairs

August 20, 2008

Mao’s successor Hua Guofeng dies

Mao’s successor Hua Guofeng dies

Hua Guofeng

Hua Guofeng succeeded Mao Zedong in 1976

Hua Guofeng, who succeeded Mao Zedong as chairman of China’s Communist Party, has died, state media is reporting.

Xinhua news agency said 87-year-old Hua died in the Chinese capital after suffering from an unspecified illness.

Hua took over as chairman after Mao’s death in 1976 and was in power at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

But Hua was himself quickly pushed aside by radical reformer Deng Xiaoping. His period as chairman ended formally in 1981.

However, unlike former leaders who were purged and exiled to remote villages, Hua remained in Beijing and on the party’s Central Committee.

Loyal lieutenant

“Because of an illness that could not be cured, Hua died on 20 August at 1250 in Beijing, at the age of 87,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a brief report.

Chairman Hua, left, in November 1976 with his deputy, Yeh Chien-ying

Chairman Hua (here, left, in late 1976) was soon pushed out by Deng Xiaoping

Born to a poor family in 1921, Hua became a guerrilla fighter aged 15 in Mao’s Communist movement in the civil war against Chiang Kai-shek’s ruling Nationalists.

After the 1949 revolution, he served in provincial government and party posts, reportedly catching Mao’s eye as early as 1954.

He was named to the Central Committee in 1969, and party secretary of Mao’s home province Hunan the following year. He later succeeded Zhou Enlai as prime minister, before becoming party chairman on Mao’s death.

Gang of Four

It was under Hua’s chairmanship that members of the so-called Gang of Four – including Mao’s widow Jiang Qing – were arrested.

They had been blamed for the excesses that accompanied the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

But whether Hua was instrumental in ordering their arrests is unclear.

Mao was said to have told Hua on his deathbed: “With you in charge my heart is at ease.”

But Deng Xiaoping was already manoeuvring to replace him, and Hua was effectively stripped of his powers in 1978, before formally losing the chairmanship in 1981.

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