Mao’s handpicked successor Hua Guofeng dies

August 21st, 2008 - 2:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 21 (DPA) Hua Guofeng, the handpicked successor of the late Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong, has died in Beijing of an illness, state media reported Thursday. He was 87.Hua died at 12.50 p.m. Wednesday, the official Xinhua news agency said without specifying the type of illness.

After Mao’s death in 1976, Hua stepped up to lead the then-politically unstable country, which had been mired in ten years of the violent Cultural Revolution, launched by Mao.

After succeeding Mao, Hua ordered the arrests and sentencings of the Cultural Revolution instigators, the “Gang of Four,” who included Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, and thus brought the Cultural Revolution to an end.

Hua, however, opposed and delayed the rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping, an intelligent and capable member of China’s governing elite who was persecuted by Mao and labeled a “capitalist roader.”

But unable to reverse the tide that favoured Deng’s return to power, Hua went into honourable retirement in 1981, vacating the posts of chairman of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC’s) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

With Deng’s rise came all that Mao tried to stop - the launching of capitalist economic reforms and opening to the outside world, which brought China to its current condition.

Deng wanted an end to the bloody political infighting of Mao’s days and did not pursue revenge against the inner Mao clique, including Hua.

The Xinhua news agency report said Hua was “an outstanding CPC member, a long-tested and loyal communist fighter and a proletarian revolutionary.”

The little else said about him in the Chinese media is an indication that China’s leadership might still be uncertain about how to deal with the country’s tumultuous political past.

Some diehard communists and others who have been left behind by the rapid economic growth China has seen in the past three decades or are critical of the growing gap between its rich and poor, still look fondly back at the days of Mao.

Born in 1921 in northern China’s Shanxi province, Hua fought in the war against Japan and had served as Communist Party secretary of Xiangtan, Mao’s home county in Hunan province. He later became Hunan’s first secretary.

Hua eventually rose up to be China’s premier and first vice chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Committee before taking over from Mao.

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