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Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 15:57 UK

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 Beijing 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

HUA GUOFENG
Born in 1921 - became Communist guerrilla, then loyal Party cadre, rising to premier in early 1976
Succeeded Mao as the Party's second chairman when Mao died in 1976 - China was in tatters following 10 years of destructive Cultural Revolution
Immediately arrested Gang of Four, led by Mao's wife Jiang Qing
By 1978, eclipsed by Deng Xiaoping

Born to a poor family in 1921, Hua became a guerrilla fighter at the age of 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

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

But soon after Hua took over, the members of the so-called Gang of Four - including Mao's widow Jiang Qing - were arrested, and blamed for the excesses that accompanied the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

Hua also allowed the rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping, who was restored to the post of vice premier, which he had held before losing favour with Mao.

But despite this, analysts say Hua remained devoted to Mao's legacy, unwilling to set a new course.

Deng took advantage of this, and was soon manoeuvring to replace him as leader.

Hua was effectively stripped of his powers in 1978, before formally losing the chairmanship in 1981.





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