Hua Guofeng: Successor to Chairman Mao

Chairman Mao Zedong's anointed successor, Hua Guofeng held power briefly in China between before reformists banished him from the pinnacle of the Communist Party. Known as the "Wise Leader" in contrast to Mao's "Dear Leader", Hua was the third of Mao's hand-picked successors, after Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao – and the only one to survive being chosen to this famously perilous role.

Hua became Chairman of the Communist Party of China in 1976, having supported Mao's Cultural Revolution, the 10-year period of political tumult in China that led to wide-spread chaos in the country and the persecution of millions of people. From his death bed, Mao told his successor: "With you in charge my heart is at ease."

Soon after Mao's death, Hua made the decision that secured his place in history when he approved a military plot to arrest Mao's widow, Jiang Qing, along with the other members of the Gang of Four, all of whom were blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. However, he remained a proponent of "cultural revolution" as a principle, something which earned him few friends, either among the Chinese people or within the leadership of the Party.

Hua wasn't in charge for long. The wily Deng Xiaoping, persecuted during the Mao years, was restored to political prominence in 1977, becoming vice premier as well as vice chairman of the Party. When Deng began his programme of economic reform that resulted in China's gradual opening up, he dispatched Hua to the political wilderness, accusing him of being "chief whateverist".

Hua resigned as premier in September 1980. He was replaced by the economist Zhao Ziyang, a protégé of Deng, and the following year, Deng had Hua replaced as Party Chairman by Hu Yaobang. Deng subsequently purged both Zhao and Hu. The Cultural Revolution was condemned, and Mao 's era was reassessed as "70 per cent good, 30 per cent bad." Hua faded from public life soon after, although he remained on the Party's Central Committee.

Born to a poor family in Shanxi province in 1921, Hua Guofeng became a guerrilla fighter in Mao's Communist movement at 15 when it was fighting Chiang Kai-shek's ruling Nationalists. The young cadre Hua first impressed the Great Helmsman with his idealism in 1954, and the following year Hua gave a speech to the Central Committee, a gathering of China's top leaders.

In 1959 he was made provincial Party chief in Mao's home province of Hunan, and his skill at charting a middle ground during the Cultural Revolution saw him rise through the ranks, unlike Mao's other two potential successors: Liu Shaoqi was purged and died of injuries sustained in custody, while Mao's second heir apparent, Lin Biao, died in a mysterious plane crash in 1971.

Hua was named vice premier in 1976 and then premier, succeeding Zhou Enlai, as well as becoming Chairman on Mao's death. During his period in power he made a high-profile trip to the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe in 1978 and visited Britain the following year.

Little is known about Hua's final years. Some reports said he resigned from the party for health reasons in 2001, the year he turned 80.

Clifford Coonan

Hua Guofeng, politician: born Shanxi, China 16 February 1921; Vice-Governor, Hunan 1958-67; First Secretary, Communist Party of China, Hunan 1970-77; Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Security 1975-76; Acting Premier Feb-April 1976; Premier 1976-81; Chair, Central Committee of the CCP, 1976-81; Deputy Premier 1981; married Han Chih-chun; died Beijing 20 August 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence