Deng Xiaoping oversaw China's reform and opening to the world.
A pragmatist who put people's livelihoods ahead of ideology, his almost 20 years as paramount leader helped undo some of the harm caused by Mao.
But Deng will also be remembered as the man who ordered troops to clear Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Deng joined the Party in the 1920s and was a veteran of the 1934 "long march", the 6,000-mile trek by Communist forces to escape a Nationalist campaign.
During the Cultural Revolution he was attacked as the "Number two Capitalist Roader" after Liu Shaoqi. He was reinstated as deputy premier in 1973, but purged again in 1976.
Following the death of Mao, Deng slowly returned to the centre of power, pushing aside the chosen successor, Hua Guofeng.
In 1978 he oversaw the historic change of direction for China, the stressing of the so-called "Four Modernisations" of agriculture, industry, national defence, and science and technology.
During Deng's long hold on power, he instituted a variety of reforms aimed at decentralising the economy and opening the country to international trade.
He resigned from his last official Party post in 1989, after he and other Party elders ordered the use of military force to clear Tiananmen Square.
He remained extremely influential until his death in 1997, and it was Deng who agreed to Jiang Zemin's elevation to Party chief and Deng who nominated Hu Jintao as Mr Jiang's successor.