Hua Guofeng

Hua Guofeng (/hwɑː/; born Su Zhu; 16 February 1921 – 20 August 2008)[1] was a Chinese politician who served as Chairman of the Communist Party of China and Premier of the People's Republic of China. Hua held the top offices of the government, party, and the military after Premier Zhou and Chairman Mao's death, but was forced out of major political power by more influential party leaders by June 1981 and subsequently retreated from the political scene.

Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng-1 (cropped).jpg
Hua Guofeng during his visit to Romania in 1978
Chairman of the Communist Party of China
In office
7 October 1976 – 28 June 1981
DeputyYe Jianying
Preceded byMao Zedong
Succeeded byHu Yaobang
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party
In office
7 October 1976 – 28 June 1981
Preceded byMao Zedong
Succeeded byDeng Xiaoping
Premier of the People's Republic of China
In office
4 February 1976 – 10 September 1980
Presidentpost abolished
Soong Ching-ling
Ye Jianying
(de jure head of state)
Vice PremierDeng Xiaoping
Preceded byZhou Enlai
Succeeded byZhao Ziyang
First Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China
In office
6 April 1976 – 6 October 1976
ChairmanMao Zedong
Preceded byZhou Enlai
Succeeded byYe Jianying
Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China
In office
28 June 1981 – 12 September 1982
ChairmanHu Yaobang
Personal details
Su Zhu

(1921-02-16)16 February 1921
Jiaocheng County, Shanxi, Republic of China
Died20 August 2008(2008-08-20) (aged 87)
Beijing, China
Political party Communist Party of China (1938-2002)
Han Zhijun
(m. 1949; his death 2008)
ChildrenSu Hua
Su Bin
Su Ling
Su Li

Paramount Leader of
the People's Republic of China

Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng (Chinese characters).svg
"Hua Guofeng" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese華國鋒
Su Zhu
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese蘇鑄

Originally from Shanxi province, Hua rose to power as a regional official in Hunan between 1949 and 1971, first serving as the prefecture Party Committee Secretary of the Xiangtan, Mao's home area, then as the party secretary in the province during the latter stages of the Cultural Revolution. Hua was elevated to the national stage in early 1976, and was mainly known for his unswerving loyalty to Mao. After the death of Zhou Enlai, Mao elevated Hua to the position of Premier of the State Council, overseeing government work, and of First Vice Chairman of the Communist Party, which made him Mao's designated successor.

On 6 October 1976, shortly after the death of Mao, Hua removed the Gang of Four from political power by arranging for their arrests in Beijing. Afterwards he took on the titles of party chairman and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Hua is thus far the only leader to have simultaneously held the offices of party leader, premier and CMC chairman.

Hua attempted moderate reforms and reversing some of the excesses of Cultural Revolution-era policies. However, because of his insistence on continuing the Maoist line and refusal to adopt large-scale reforms, he faced resistance in the upper echelons of the party. In December 1978, a group of party veterans led by Deng Xiaoping, a pragmatic reformer, forced Hua from power but allowed him to retain some titles. Hua gradually faded into political obscurity, but continued to insist on the correctness of Maoist principles. He is remembered as a largely benign transitional figure in modern Chinese political history.

Early lifeEdit

Born in Jiaocheng County, Shanxi province, Hua joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1938 as a part of counter-Japanese resistance, after having joined the Long March in 1936.[2] Like many Communists of the era who took on revolutionary names, he changed his name to Huá Guófēng as an abbreviation of "中華抗日救國先鋒隊" (Zhōnghuá kàngrì jiùguó xiānfēng duì; 'Chinese Anti-Japanese Aggression National Salvation Vanguard'). After having served in the 8th Route Army during 12 years under General Zhu De's command,[2] he became propaganda chief for the county Party committee in 1947.

Hua moved with the PLA to Hunan in 1949, where he married Han Zhijun in January, and remained there as a local official until 1971. He was appointed Party secretary for Xiangyin County in August, just before the establishment of the People's Republic of China. In 1952, he was appointed secretary of Xiangtan Special District, which included Mao's hometown, Shaoshan. In this role, he built a memorial hall dedicated to Mao. When Mao visited the site, in June 1959, he was favorably impressed.[3] Mao Zedong first met Hua in 1955, and apparently was impressed by his simplicity.[clarification needed]

Hua participated in the 1959 Lushan Conference (an enlarged plenary session of the CPC Central Committee) as a member of the Hunan Provincial Party delegation, and wrote two investigative reports defending communes and the Great Leap Forward. He denounced Defense Minister Peng Dehuai and other critics of the Great Leap, and argued that the death toll, said to number up to 30-40 million people, was exaggerated. Hua's sycophantic loyalty to Mao thus ensured his political future.

Hua's influence increased with the Cultural Revolution, as he supported it and led the movement in Hunan. He organized the preparation for the establishment of the local Revolutionary Committee in 1967, of which he was a deputy chairman, and gained wide attention for suppressing a hard-line extremist faction. In December 1970, he was elected new chairman of the Revolutionary Committee as well as first secretary of the CPC Hunan Committee.

He was elected a full member of the 9th Central Committee in 1969.

Rise to powerEdit

Hua was called to Beijing to direct Zhou Enlai's State Council staff office in 1971, but only stayed for a few months before returning to his previous post in Hunan.[3] Later that year, he was appointed as the most junior of the seven-member committee investigating the Lin Biao Affair, a sign of the strong trust Mao had in him. Hua was re-elected to the 10th Central Committee in 1973 and elevated to membership in the Politburo; in the same year, he was put in charge by Zhou Enlai of agricultural development. He became minister of public security and vice-premier in 1975, but his duties were far broader, as he was also chosen to deliver a speech on modernizing agriculture in October of that year which echoed the views of Zhou Enlai.[4]

Zhou Enlai died on 8 January 1976, at a time when Deng Xiaoping's reformist alliance was not yet strong enough to stand up to both the ailing Mao Zedong and his Cultural Revolution allies, the Gang of Four (Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Wang Hongwen, and Yao Wenyuan). A week after reading the late premier's eulogy, Deng left Beijing along with several close allies for the relative safety of Guangzhou.[5]

Although Mao Zedong had reportedly wanted to appoint Wang Hongwen as Zhou Enlai's successor, he ended up naming Hua as acting premier. At the same time, the leftist-controlled media began denouncing Deng once again (he had been purged during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and was only returned to power in 1973). Popular affection for Zhou was underestimated, however, leading to a confrontation between the radicals' militia allies and Beijing citizens seeking to honor Zhou during the traditional Qingming festival. At the same time, Hua delivered speeches on the "official line for criticizing Deng Xiaoping", which were approved by Mao and the Party Central Committee.

During the Tiananmen Incident of 1976, thousands of people protested at the militia's removal of wreaths honoring Zhou in front of the Monument to the People's Heroes. Vehicles were burned, offices ransacked and there were reports of many injuries but no deaths.[6] In the aftermath, Deng Xiaoping was blamed for inciting the protests and stripped of all his party and government posts, though his party membership was retained at Mao's behest. Shortly thereafter, Hua was elevated to First Vice Chairman of the CPC Central Committee and Premier of the State Council.

Following the Tangshan Earthquake in July, Hua visited the devastated area and helped direct relief efforts, while the Gang of Four were nowhere to be seen.

Removing the Gang of FourEdit

Mao died on 9 September 1976 and Hua, as both the number two man of the CPC and Premier, led the national commemorations in Beijing in his honor in the days that followed. At the time, the highest power organ of the country, the Politburo Standing Committee, consisted of Hua, Ye Jianying, Zhang Chunqiao, and Wang Hongwen; Ye was in semi-retirement, and Zhang and Wang were part of the Gang of Four. Hua knew that in the post-Mao power vacuum, his position vis-a-vis the Gang of Four's would be a zero-sum game. That is, if the Gang of Four were not removed through use of force, the Gang may attempt to oust him pre-emptively.[7] Hua made contact with Ye days after Mao's death to discuss plans about the Gang of Four. Ye had grown disillusioned with the Gang before Mao's death, so he and Hua came to a quick agreement to conspire against the Gang. The two enlisted the support of Wang Dongxing, who had command of the elite Unit 8341, as well as other leading figures on the Politburo, including Wu De and Chen Xilian.[7] The group discussed ways to remove the Gang, including holding a Politburo or Central Committee meeting to oust them through established party procedure, but the idea was shot down because the Central Committee was, at the time, composed of many of the Gang's supporters. Eventually, the group decided to use force.

The members of the Gang were arrested on 6 October, soon after midnight.[8] Hua had summoned Zhang Chunqiao, Wang Hongwen, and Yao Wenyuan to a meeting at Zhongnanhai, ostensibly to discuss the fifth volume of Mao's "Selected Works". They were arrested while walking into the meeting at Huairen Hall. According to Hua's own recollection of events, he and Marshal Ye were the only two leaders present at the "meeting", awaiting the arrival of the members of the Gang. Upon the arrest of each of the three, Hua personally announced to them the reasons for their detention. Hua said that they had engaged in "anti-party and anti-socialism" acts and "conspired to usurp power". Jiang Qing and Mao Yuanxin were arrested at their respective residences.[9] A task force led by Geng Biao occupied the headquarters of the party's main propaganda organs, which were considered a part of the Gang's turf at the time. Another group was dispatched to stabilize Shanghai, the Gang's main regional power base. At a Politburo meeting the next day, Hua Guofeng assumed the posts of Chairman of the CPC Central Committee and the Central Military Commission while in concurrent capacity as Premier of the State Council.[8]

Party Chairman and PremierEdit

During his relatively short leadership, Hua was credited for quickly ousting the Gang of Four from political power and thus became the leader whose emergence marked the end of the Cultural Revolution. The jubilation following the incarceration of the Gang of Four and the popularity of the new ruling triumvirate (Hua Guofeng, Ye Jianying, and Li Xiannian, a temporary alliance of necessity) were succeeded by calls for the restoration to power of Deng Xiaoping and the elimination of leftist influence throughout the political system.[10] Hua's economic and political programs involved the restoration of Soviet-style industrial planning and party control similar to that followed by China before the Great Leap Forward. However, this model was rejected by supporters of Deng Xiaoping, who argued for a more market-based economic system. This argument was decisively resolved in Deng's favor in late 1978, which is generally taken as the start of the era of Chinese economic reform. Hua also attempted reforming state protocol as a method of elevating his prestige. In 1978 all party meetings were to hang portraits of Mao and Hua side-by-side, including at the National People's Congress and CPC Party Congress meetings. All schools were required to hang Hua's picture next to Mao's. Hua also changed the Chinese national anthem to incorporate Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party, switching the tone from being war-rallying to purely Communist propaganda. These lyrics were eventually rejected. Hua Guofeng continued to use the terminology of the Cultural Revolution, but he criticized certain aspects of it, including the education reform, the revolutionary committees' activity and other excesses, blaming the Gang of Four. State media referred to him as "the wise leader".

In February 1978, the party met to approve a new state constitution, which Hua was heavily involved in drafting. This document, which attempted to restore some rule of law and planning mechanisms from the PRC's original 1956 constitution, still contained references to continuous revolution and proletarian internationalism; it was replaced only four years later with a different constitution that dropped all mentions of Maoism. Hua and other party conservatives such as Li Xiannian also drafted an ambitious ten year economic plan which sought to create a Soviet-style economy based around heavy industry and energy, but it was quickly scrapped in favor of a cheaper and more doable five-year plan which prioritized light industry and consumer goods.

Hua's weak personality and continued loyalty to Maoism did not inspire a nation and party leadership weary of the Cultural Revolution, and he quickly came to be seen as a Mao sycophant with no real ideas of his own. His slogan "Whatever Chairman Mao said, we will say and whatever Chairman Mao did, we will do" was soon referred to sarcastically as "the Two Whatevers" and became one of the major reasons for his fall from grace. Although Hua later distanced himself from Maoism and began to support some reformist ideas, his unrealistic economic plans proved a further strike against him.

On October 1979, Hua went on a European tour, the first of its kind for a Chinese leader after 1949. He traveled to West Germany and France. On 28 October Hua visited the United Kingdom and met with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The two engaged in friendly talks and discussed the future of Hong Kong, which was a British Overseas Territory at the time.

Chairman Hua visited Derby's British Rail Railway Technical Centre to observe the development of the Advanced Passenger Train.[11] His visit coincided with the donation of the Chinese Government Railways Steam Locomotive 4-8-4 KF Class No 7 to the National Railway Museum in York.[12] Chairman Hua also went to a farm in Oxfordshire and visited Oxford University.[13]

Hua Guofeng with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during a state visit in Iran, 1978[14]

Hua was one of the last foreigners to visit Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, before he was overthrown in 1979.[15]

His interpretation of the Three Worlds Theory, leading to a general rapprochement with Western powers, divided Maoist parties throughout the world. Many of them, including Shining Path, criticized him for this and accused him of being a traitor for ousting Jiang Qing and aligning the party to the interests of Western imperialists.[citation needed]

At the CCP 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee, after which Deng Xiaoping became the de facto leader of China as his idea for economic reform was adopted by the Party, Hua Guofeng was implicitly criticized for serving concurrently as Chairman of the Central Committee, Chairman of the Central Military Commission and Premier of the State Council. This was reverted between 1980 and 1981, as the three posts were assigned to three people, but this system was re-established by Jiang Zemin as he became "paramount leader" of China (serving however as General Secretary rather than Party Chairman).

State visitsEdit

Country Date Host
  North Korea 12 May 1978 Kim Il-Sung
  Romania 16 August 1978 Nicolae Ceaușescu
  Yugoslavia 21 August 1978 Josip Broz Tito
  Iran 29 August 1978 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
  France 15 October 1979 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
  West Germany 21 October 1979 Helmut Schmidt
  United Kingdom 28 October 1979 Margaret Thatcher
  Italy 3 November 1979 Francesco Cossiga
  Japan 27 May 1980 Masayoshi Ōhira

Ousting and deathEdit

Tomb of Hua Guofeng

As Deng Xiaoping gradually gained control over the CCP, Hua was denounced for promoting the Two Whatevers policy. As early as January 1979, state media had stopped referring to him as "the wise leader" and he was replaced by Zhao Ziyang as Premier in 1980, by Hu Yaobang as Party Chairman and by Deng himself as chairman of the Central Military Commission in 1981. Hua gave self-criticism sessions and eventually renounced the Two Whatevers policy as a mistake. Both Zhao and Hu were protégés of Deng who were dedicated to Chinese economic reform. Hua Guofeng was demoted to junior Vice Chairman; and when this post was abolished in 1982, he remained as an ordinary member of the Central Committee, a position which he held until the 16th Party Congress of November 2002, despite having passed the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1991.

After Hua's downfall in 1980-81, the party's official verdict was that he had done good work by removing the Gang of Four, but afterwards committed "serious errors".

The ousting of Hua was significant in at least two respects. First, it demonstrated the unimportance of official titles in the Chinese Communist Party during the late-1970s and early-1980s. Despite being the official leader of the party, the state, and the army, Hua was unable to defeat a leadership challenge by Deng Xiaoping. Second, Hua's ousting reflected a change of policies initiated by Deng Xiaoping in which disgraced party members would merely be stripped of their position, but not jailed or otherwise physically harmed.

In early 2002, Hua officially lost his seat on the Central Committee of the CPC. It was reported that he retired voluntarily for age and health reasons, although the party did not officially confirm this.[16] He was, however, invited to the 17th Party Congress in 2007 as a special delegate and he appeared at a ceremony in December 2007 to commemorate the 115th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth.[17]

Despite retaining formal party positions, Hua distanced himself from active participation in politics. His main hobby was grape cultivation, and he kept up with current affairs by subscribing to a host of newspapers. Hua's health deteriorated in 2008, and he was hospitalized for kidney and heart complications.[18] He died in Beijing on 20 August 2008.[19] A cause of death was not given, and as his death occurred during the festive Beijing Olympics, it was not given much attention on state media: merely a 30-second broadcast on the national news program Xinwen Lianbo[citation needed] and a short paragraph on the corner of the front page of the People's Daily.[20] His funeral, held at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, held on 30 August, was attended by General Secretary Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and the entire Politburo Standing Committee, as well as former leaders Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji.[21]


Hua married Han Zhijun in January 1949. They had four children, all of whom are surnamed "Su" (), in accordance with Hua's birth name. Their first son, Su Hua, is a retired Air Force officer. Their second son, Su Bin, is a retired army officer. Their older daughter, Su Ling, is a party and union official at the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Their younger daughter, Su Li, works for the State Council.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Profile of Hua Guofeng
  2. ^ a b Palmowski, Jan: "Hua Guofeng" in A Dictionary of Contemporary World History. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  3. ^ a b Wang, James C.F., Contemporary Chinese Politics: An Introduction (Prentice-Hall, New Jersey: 1980), p. 36.
  4. ^ Wang, James C.F., Contemporary Chinese Politics: An Introduction (Prentice-Hall, New Jersey: 1980), p. 37.
  5. ^ Hollingworth, Clare, Mao and the Men Against Him (Jonathan Cape, London: 1985), p. 291ff
  6. ^ Hollingworth, Clare, Mao and the Men Against Him (Jonathan Cape, London: 1985), pp. 297–298
  7. ^ a b 华国锋口述:怀仁堂事变真实经过. Duowei. 3 November 2016.
  8. ^ a b Hsü, Immanuel Chung-yueh (1990), China Without Mao: the Search for a New Order, Oxford University Press, p. 18, ISBN 0-19536-303-5
  9. ^ Hsin, Chi. The Case of the Gang of Four. Revised ed. Hong Kong: Cosmo, 1978. Print.
  10. ^ "Post-Mao Period, 1976-78". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Chairman Hua Officially Visits the UK". Hua Guofeng Memorial Website. 28 October 1979. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  12. ^ "Chinese Government Railways Steam Locomotive 4-8-4 KF Class No 7". National Railway Museum. 10 April 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  13. ^ "1979: Chairman Hua arrives in London". BBC News. 28 October 1979. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  14. ^ 华主席抵德黑兰进行正式友好访问 巴列维国王举行盛大宴会热烈欢迎. People's Daily (in Chinese). 30 August 1978. p. 1.
  15. ^ Wright, Robin (17 November 2004). "Iran's New Alliance With China Could Cost U.S. Leverage". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  16. ^ "Pakistan Daily Times Article". Daily Times. Retrieved 10 February 2005.
  17. ^ 十七大之后拜访华国锋 [Visiting Hua Guofeng after the 17th Congress]. Sohu. Retrieved 22 September 2008.
  18. ^ 简单的晚年生活 华国锋远离政治的日子 [A simple late life: Hua Guofeng's days away from politics]. China News Weekly (in Chinese). 21 September 2008.
  19. ^ Keith Bradsher and William J. Wellman, "Hua Guofeng, 87, Who Led China After Mao, Dies", The New York Times, 20 August 2008.
  20. ^ 华国锋在京病逝 曾经担任党和国家重要领导职务. Sohu via Xinhua. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  21. ^ 华国锋同志遗体在京火化 胡锦涛等到革命公墓送别. People's Daily. 30 August 2008. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.

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Wang Yanchun
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Secretary of the CPC Hunan Committee
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Deng Xiaoping
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