top of page



Chapter 10


Deng Xiaoping: (dung shao ping) Born 1904, in Sichuan. Deng went to France to study in 1920, and joined the CCP in 1924, while still in France. He returned to China in 1926 after a brief stint in Moscow. A survivor of the Long March, he served in various political positions during WWII and the 1945-49 Chinese Civil War. During this time he built both his power base and personal contacts.

Transferred to Beijing in 1952, Deng became vice-premier that same year. In 1954, Deng was appointed secretary general of the CCP, and in 1955, he was elevated to the politburo. In 1956, he was appointed general secretary of the CCP secretariat, making him the fourth most powerful person in the PRC (after Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Liu Shaoqi).

In the 1960s, Deng broke from Mao's strict adherence to ideology. Deng's famous statement, "It does not matter whether they are black cats or white cats; so long as they catch mice, they are good cats/' virtually rejected Mao (for whom it did not matter whether the cats caught mice; so long as they were Red cats, they were good cats). During the Cultural Revolution, Deng was labelled the "number two capitalist power holder" (Liu Shaoqi was number one), dismissed from office, and publicly humiliated. He was then sent to the countryside, where he and his family performed manual labor, studied Mao and Marx, and were "re-educated."

In 1973, Deng was recalled to Beijing and returned to his post of vice-premier. He was re-elevated to the politburo later the same year. He continued to gain posts and power and was the apparent choice of many senior leaders to be the next chairman of the CCP and therefore, leader of the PRC. However, Zhou Enlai, Deng's most important supporter, died in January 1976. Shortly thereafter, Deng disappearedfrom public view, was relieved of all his posts, and was purged by the Gang of Four.

After Mao's death in September 1976, Hua Guofeng and several key military leaders arrested the Gang of Four. This gave Deng yet another opportunity at a comeback. Although Hua and other Maoists tried to block him, Deng re-emerged in the leadership structure in July 1977.

During 1977-78, Deng and his followers sought to "de-Maoize" the PRC. This would allow Deng to implement his modernization plans; it would also undermine the power of Deng's chief rival, Hua Guofeng. Deng's most iconoclastic maneuver was the publication of "Practice Is the Sole Criterion of Truth." That title alone smashes Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Zedong Thought's emphasis on ideology; it also served to legitimatize economic reform.

Deng rehabilitated almost everyone, dead or alive, who had been purged by Mao or the Gang of Four. This further undermined the prestige of the near-mythical Mao. This also ate away at the power base of the Maoists, particularly Hua. Deng put the Gang of Four on public trial in 1980-81, which also gave him the opportunity he needed to get rid of Hua, who resigned shortly after the trial began. HuYaobang became the new CCP chairman, and therefore Deng's heir apparent. It was also in 1981 that a sharp criticism of Mao's mistakes was issued.

Deng seemed destined to go down in history as one of China's greatest leaders. His restructuring of the PRC, along with his great abilities and incredible tenacity, proved him a remarkable man. He will long be remembered for his pragmatism and emphasis of practical application over ideology. However, whenever there has been a contestbetween greater democracy or power, Deng has always chosen power. Tragically, the Tian'anmen Massacre occurred under his reign, and there can be no doubt that even if he did not give the order to use deadly force on the protesters, he condoned it.

Deng removed himself from the day-to-day affairs of state, and even went as far as to relinquish all of his CCP posts in 1989, and resigned from the remainder of his official posts in 1990. However, there is little doubt that he will rule China as long as he breathes.


Fang Lizhi: (fahng lee jer) Chinese astrophysicist, born 1936 in Beijing. Entering Beijing University in 1952, he soon stood out, both for his abilities as a scientist and for his outspoken political views. After graduation in 1956, he joined the faculty of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Modern Physics.

1957 was the first year that Fang suffered for his opinions. He had written an article stating that the educational system should be free of political interference, so that scientific research could advance unimpeded. Fang was purged and expelled from the CCP during the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957.

Fang was maltreated again during the Cultural Revolution. This time, the "stinking ninth category" of intellectuals was singled out for particularly harsh treatment. Fang was imprisoned for one year and then "sent down" to the countryside, to work with the peasants.

After the end of the Cultural Revolution and the fall of the Gang of Four, Fang was rehabilitated. In 1978, he regained CCP membership and became China's youngest full professor. Soon thereafter he became one of the few Chinese scientists of international stature.

As contacts between faculty and students and the rest of the world increased, Fang realized that the most important thing he could do for his country was not scientific research, but educational reform. He resolved to create intellectual and academic freedom. He spoke frequently at political gatherings of all sorts, both promoting intellectual openness and criticizing the CCP, and even communismitself. Fang supported the students during the Tian'anmen demonstrations in 1989, After the crackdown, he gained asylum at the American Embassy in Beijing. More than one year after the massacre, Fang was finally granted permission by Chinese authorities to leave the country.


Hu Yaobang: (who yow bahng) 1915-1989. A protege of Deng Xiaoping, Hu was named as the General Secretary of the CCP in 1981 and appeared to be Deng's personally selected heir-apparent. In the 1950s, Hu developed his political base through a long involvement with theCommunist Youth League (CYL), which recognizes and recruits outstanding youths for grooming as CCP cadres. Hu was known as a moderate reformer who gained his position through his strong support of Deng's economic modernizations. He was also a particular champion of youth and student issues. Conservatives forced Hu to resign in 1987, blaming him for the student democracy protests in December and attributing the runaway inflation to his liberal management style. He was replaced by Zhao Ziyang, but Hu retained his position in the Politburo, as well as his party membership.

One of the reasons for popular support of Hu was his perceived incorruptibility. During his life, none of his family was accused of benefitting from Hu's position. This is in strong contrast to many other leaders of China, whose families have profited greatly from inside connections.

In April of 1989, Hu Yaobang died. His death on the eve of the seventieth anniversary of the May Fourth Movement served as a catalyst for the Beijing Spring which preceded the Tian'anmen Massacre.

Jiang Qing: (jahng ching) 1914-1991. Jiang's politics were radicalized during the tumultuous 1930s in Shanghai, where she was working as an actress. The nascent Chinese film industry in Shanghai was quite radical. In 1937, she made the long and dangerous journey to Yan'an, the final destination of the CCP's Long March and the center of radical resistance to Japanese aggression. While in Yan'an, Jiang attracted the notice of Mao and soon became his constant companion. Mao's second wife had been sent to the USSR for rest and recuperation after the Long March. It is generally acknowledged that Jiang Qing became Mao's third wife at Yan'an, but no official recorded date for their marriage has been found. From 1949 until the early 1960s, Jiang Qing kept out of political affairs and raised her two daughters by Mao.

By 1965, both Mao and Jiang considered that Chinese artistic creativity had strayed from the socialist path and was being corrupted by bourgeois liberalism. Again based in Shanghai, Jiang had joined with a small group of ultra-radical CCP members to form the Shanghai GPCR Committee. Eventually, this group became known as 'The Gang of Four." After the death of her discredited ally Lin Biao in 1972, Jiang and her "Gang" virtually dominated the Chinese cultural scene, insisting upon "socialist ideology" as the sole criterion for judging art. Consequently, the field for artistic creativity was severely limited. In the waning years of the GPCR (1973-1976), Jiang and her cohorts dominated the PRC, virtually paralyzing of the country.

After the death of Mao in 1976, Hua Guofeng arrested the Gang of Four. In 1980, the Gang of Four was put on public trail. During her trial, she remained defiant and publicly unrepentant. Sentenced to death, her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and then house arrest. Shecommitted suicide in May 1991.


Liu Shaoqi: (leo shao chee) 1898-1969. Like Mao, Liu was born in Hunan province. Educated in Moscow, Liu was an urban labor organizer in Guangzhou and Shanghai before becoming a member of the Central Committee of the CCP in 1927. He remained urban-based during the thirties and did not participate in the Long March. In 1942, his work"On How to Be a Good Communist" was published. From this work, Liu established an international reputation as the primary theoretician of Chinese communism.

In 1949, when the PRC was established, Liu was made President of the PRC and chief vice chairman of the CCP. A moderate, Liu gained more power in 1959 when he was appointed chairman of the republic, second only to Mao in official standing.

At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Liu was the main target of the Red Guards. He was labelled "the number one capitalist roader," "renegade," "traitor," and "scab." He was purged in 1966, and died in interior exile. In 1980, he was posthumously rehabilitated by his old friend and fellow "capitalist roader" Deng Xiaoping.



Mao Zedong: (mao tsuh doong) 1893-1976. First secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (1943-1976) and the dominant leader of the People's Republic of China after its establishment in 1949. Mao demonstrated early his military-strategic brilliance through a series of encounters with both domestic and foreign opponents during China's Civil War, including the legendary Long March of 1934-35. As a teacher and poet, Mao possessed the ability to communicate his vision of communism in clear, persuasive language which had particular appeal to the Chinese peasantry. After his emergence as China's premier leader in *949, with the victory over Chiang Kai-shek, Mao is credited with instituting a series of revolutionary and controversial reforms, including: the Hundred Flowers Campaign (1957), which encouraged intellectual expression; the collectivization of agriculture (1957) andthe Great Leap Forward (1957-62), which encouraged rapidmodernization of agriculture and industry; and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), aimed at rooting out old customs, habits, and ways of thought. The extremism evident in his later years led to reassessment of Maoist thought after his death in 1976, setting the stage for more pragmatic leaders like Deng Xiaoping, Mao's successor.


Zhao Ziyang: (jao tsuh yahng) Born 1919. Another protege of Deng Xiaoping, Zhao was the secretary of the Guangdong provincial CCP and was purged during the Cultural Revolution. However, he was rehabilitated and became governor of Sichuan Province in 1975. He became famous for implementing modernizations in technology and agriculture while he was governor. Elected to the Politburo in 1979, he became premier in 1980. When Hu Yaobang was forced to resign his post as CCP General Secretary in 1987, Zhao filled the position. He was also appointed First Vice Chairman of the Military AffairsCommission at this time. This positions confirmed Zhao as the heir apparent to Deng.

Zhao's most famous statement was made while he was visiting the student protesters during the Beijing Spring of 1989. With tears in his eyes, he said," We have come too late." Two days later, Zhao was forced to resign from office, and subsequently disappeared from public sight.

Although Zhao was sighted in China in 1990, apparently on CCP business, his official status remains unclear.


Zhou Enlai: (joe en lie) 1898-1976. Unlike many of his fellow communists, Zhou came from a scholar-gentry background. After being tutored in traditional Confucian precepts, Zhou attended modern j Chinese schools in his native Tianjin. He was one of the student leaders of the May Fourth Movement in Tianjin, for which he was jailed. After spending some time in Japan, Zhou went to France in 1920 on the work-study program, where he studied French, did odd jobs, and joined the French cell of the CCP in late 1921.

After his return to China, during the era of the First United Front with the KMT, Zhou became the political director of the Whampoa Military Academy in Guangdong province. The commandant of Whampoa was Chiang Kai-shek, who eventually turned on his aide and specifically ordered Zhou's death during the 1927 Shanghai Massacre. Zhou escaped and went underground, where he organized urban laborers. When the Chinese urban areas became too dangerous, Zhou escaped to Mao's mountain retreat. In 1934-35, Zhou commanded the first stage of the Long March. At the critical Zunyi Conference of the CCP, Zhou's support of Mao was critical to the subsequentdevelopment of the CCP along Maoist lines.

During the Xi'an Incident, Zhou was the liaison between Chiang, his captors, and the CCP. When the Second United Front of the KMT-CCP was established to fight against the invading Japanese, Zhou served as the CCP representative in the KMT capital of Chongqing, meeting with both KMT and American officials. When WWII ended in 1945, Zhou returned to the CCP forces and represented their interests in the subsequent futile negotiations with the KMT, held under US aegis in Shanghai. When Mao proclaimed the PRC on 1 October 1949, Zhou was by his side on Tian'anmen. Zhou served as the PRC's Foreign Minister, and from 1954 until his death, as the PRC's Premier. By all accounts, Zhou was charming and urbane; he presented the PRC's face to the diplomatic world and developed favorable relationships withThird World countries. Although the PRC was initially unsuccessful inestablishing any regularized post-1949 relationships with the West(particularly with the US), Zhou did manage to stage one of thediplomatic coups of the twentieth century when he greeted President Richard Nixon on the tarmac of the Beijing airport in September 1972.

Not known for his theoretical contributions, Zhou has long been regarded as the "Great Pragmatist," who placed the needs of the Chinese masses above all other considerations. An ardent nationalist, Zhou was staunchly communist and, even more strongly, a backer of Mao. In recent years, his public image within the PRC has been eroded by a re-evaluation of his apparent tacit endorsement of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Zhou has been called an enigma, and remains one of the least discussed of the founders of the PRC.

bottom of page