Birthday: October 17, 1919
Died At Age: 85
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Zhao Zi Yang, Zhaoziyang
Born in: Hua County, Anyang, China
Famous as: Former Prime Minister of China
Spouse/Ex-: Liang Boqi
children: Zhao Daijun, Zhao Erjun, Zhao Liang, Zhao Sanjun, Zhao Sijun, Zhao Wujun
Died on: January 17, 2005
place of death: Beijing
Zhao Ziyang was the thrid Prime Minister of People's Republic of China. He was in the office from 1980 to 1987. A reputed figure who was extremely influential in the socio-economic and political spectrum during the end of the Cold War, he had also previously served as the Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China. Following his tenure as the premier, he served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1987 to 1989. During his tenure as a senior government official, Zhao was reproachful and generally critical of Maoist approaches and was instrumental in bringing about major reformative changes, firstly in Sichuan and subsequently all across the nation. Ziyang was an ardent supporter of several policies, such as the privatization of state-owned ventures and the separation of the Party and the State. Most importantly, he introduced several changes in the general financial ecosystem of the nation. He always looked for measures to streamline and regulate China’s organization and battle debasement, which were concurrent issues that troubled the party’s authenticity throughout the 1980s. General Secretary Hu Yaobang was onboard with most of his policies and perspectives and supported him openly.
Childhood & Early Life
Zhao Ziyang was born on 17 October 1919 in the Henan Province of China to an established family of landlords.
When he was young, he was influenced by the Communist Manifesto and joined his country’s Young Communist League way back in 1932.
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Zhao Ziyang became a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1938. At that time the Sino-Japanese War was going on, during which he served in local party organizations all around Northern China.
In 1949, the People’s Republic was established. He was shifted to Guangdong province in the South, where he was appointed as provincial first party secretary after several years in 1965.
During the Cultural Revolution, he was dismissed from all official positions. He was reappointed as the First Party Secretary in 1975. At this point in time, he was in Sichuan, China’s most populous province, where his efforts were focused on increasing industrial and agricultural production.
In 1977, Deng Xiaoping promoted Zhao to a position as an alternate member of the Politburo Communist Party of China. It didn’t take long for him to rise further up as he became a full member in 1979. He was initiated into the Politburo Standing Committee in 1980, which was at the time China’s highest ruling sector.
Furthermore, Zhao became the President of the Leading group for Financial and Economic Affairs and Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China in 1980 and 1981 respectively.
He then served as Vice Premier under Hua Guofeng for six months in 1980 before replacing him as Premier of the State Council. His tenure from 1980 to 1984 was marked by a 50% rise in China’s Agricultural Production. He was also known as a popular Marxist-Revisionist as he made several alterations to the Communist Manifesto, making it more suitable for China’s current state of affairs.
He was also influential in handling a whole array of large scale anti-corruption programs. Following several dismissals including Hua’s, Zhao was further promoted by Deng to the post of Chinese Communist Party’s General Secretary. This was the second highest seat of power in Communist China and he was being groomed to succeed Deng as China’s Paramount Leader.
As the General Secretary, Zhao continued his usual policies of loosening Governmental control and regulation over the various industries and advocated the creation of special free-enterprise zones in China’s coastal regions in order to speed up the country’s economic development.
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 were significant in Ziyang’s life and career. There was a mass uproar that called for major political and economic reforms. The protests, which began as a public mourning for the death of Hu Yaobang who held the top office of the Communist Party of China throughout the 1980s, later escalated to a demand to put an end to all corruption within the party.
As the protests began to spread to other cities, the central authority of China came under heavy threat of collapse. Though Ziyang was quite moderate in his approach to dealing with the situation, the Government ended up declaring Martial Law and suppressed the protests. Zhao was then formally dismissed as General Secretary but retained his party membership. Following this crisis, he was put under house arrest for the rest of his life.
As the First Party Secretary, he came up with brilliant innovative plans and schemes, such as rewarding workers on the basis of their work performance rather than need. He also supported providing material incentives to encourage better individual performance.
In addition to this, the factory managers were given much greater autonomy on how to run the organizations. Peasants weren’t left out of his policies as he allowed them to expand their private plots of land. All these unique ideas caught the attention of Deng Xiaoping, who was the de facto leader of the Chinese Communist Party at the time.
What Zhao Ziyang had achieved at Sichuan became the model of Chinese Economic Reform. Zhao’s policies were replicated in other provinces, most notably in Anhui where the success rate was similar to that of Sichuan.
Personal Life & Legacy
Zhao Ziyang was twice married and had five children. His second wife’s name was Liang Boqi.
He passed away on 17 January 2005 after suffering a stroke in Beijing. His posthumous autobiography was published in 2009; it was called ‘Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang.’
Western observers generally view the years that Zhao served as general secretary as the most liberal ones in the history of the People's Republic of China. Many restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of press were relaxed, allowing intellectuals to freely express themselves and to propose "improvements" for the country.