Zhao Ziyang

/jow" zue"yahng"/
born 1919, Chinese Communist leader: premier 1980-87; general secretary of the Communist Party 1987-89.

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▪ 2006
 Chinese politician (b. Oct. 17, 1919, Henan province, China—d. Jan. 17, 2005, Beijing, China), rose to prominence as an economic reformer and served as premier of China (1980–87) and general secretary of the Communist Party of China (1987–89). A political centrist, he split from extremist party leaders who sought to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations forcibly in the spring of 1989. Zhao's dramatic conciliatory visit to student protesters in Tiananmen Square shortly before the crackdown was his last appearance in public. He was dismissed from the government and placed under house arrest until his death. Zhao became active in the Communist Party in the 1940s even though his father, a prosperous landlord, was killed during the period of Communist reforms. A leader of Guangdong province from 1965, Zhao was purged during the Cultural Revolution. He reemerged to take a leadership role in 1975 in populous Sichuan province, where he boosted agricultural production with his market reforms. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping drew Zhao into the ranks of Communist Party leadership, where he was able to extend his reform plans to the entire country, halt price controls, allow foreign investment, and provide labour incentives. His extensive reforms were met with resistance from Communist hard-liners, who by mid-1989 had taken firm control.

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▪ premier of China
Wade-Giles romanization  Chao Tzu-yang , original name  Zhao Xiusheng 
born October 17, 1919, Hua county, Henan province, China
died January 17, 2005, Beijing
 premier of China (1980–87) and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (1987–89).

      Born into a landlord family in Henan province, Zhao joined the Young Communist League in 1932 and became a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1938. He served in local party organizations in northern China during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45). After the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949, he was moved to Guangdong province in the south, where he became provincial first party secretary in 1965. Purged in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution, he was later rehabilitated and sent as first party secretary in 1975 to Sichuan, China's most populous province, where he greatly increased industrial and agricultural production. These results were achieved through innovative policies such as rewarding workers on the basis of work performance rather than need and relying on material incentives that encouraged individual initiative rather than on quotas set by central authorities. In addition, factory managers were given much greater autonomy, and peasants were allowed to expand their private plots of land. Such achievements caught the attention of Deng Xiaoping, the de facto leader of the CCP; Zhao was quickly made a Political Bureau (Politburo) alternate in 1977 and a full member in 1979, becoming a member of that body's powerful Standing Committee in February 1980.

      Early in 1980 he was also appointed vice premier and then, in September, premier, replacing Hua Guofeng. An economic experimenter, Zhao advocated “any structure, system, policy, or measure” that might stimulate the forces of production. As premier, he was able to extend his Sichuan policies to the whole of China. Thousands of industrial enterprises were given limited self-management, and peasants achieved increased control over and responsibility for their production and profits. Throughout the 1980s Zhao's pragmatic measures led to rapid increases in both agricultural and light industrial production, and his policies became the guiding principles for China's future economic development. Zhao was appointed acting general secretary of the CCP after Hu Yaobang was forced to resign from that office in January 1987. In November he officially became general secretary, with Li Peng taking over the premiership. As general secretary, Zhao continued to favour loosening government controls over industry and to advocate creating special free-enterprise zones in China's coastal regions as a means of hastening economic development. Premier Li, on the other hand, favoured a cautious approach that relied more on government planning and guidance.

      Hu Yaobang's death in April 1989 sparked large demonstrations in Beijing and elsewhere by students and others calling for political and economic reforms. The protests continued and grew in size, and the CCP leadership became split between those like Zhao who advocated a more moderate response to the demonstrators and those like Li who favoured a more hard-line approach. As the protests spread to other cities and threatened the central authority, the government imposed martial law and in early June forcibly suppressed the demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Zhao was formally dismissed from his top party and government posts later that month and was replaced as general secretary by Jiang Zemin. Zhao retained his party membership, but he remained essentially under house arrest until his death.

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Universalium. 2010.

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