Home > Categories > Politics and Government > Politicians > Zhao Ziyang's Biography

Zhao Ziyang's Biography

Browse biogs A-Z
Zhao Ziyang was born in the Chinese province of Henan in 1919, the son of a wealthy landowner, who was killed by Communist Party officials in the late 1940s.

Zhao Ziyang had joined the Communist Youth League and the Chinese Communist Party in the 1930s.

After working as a party official, he rose to prominence in the party in Guangdong province rising to Party Secretary there.

He fell foul of Mao Zedong in the 1960s. During Mao's Cultural Revolution, Zhao was paraded through the streets of Guangzhou and labelled "a stinking remnant of the landlord class".

However, in the 1970s Zhao Ziyang was rehabilitated. He was posted to the remote Sichuan province as Chinese Communist Party Secretary.

Sichuan, China's largest province, was in dire economic straits due to the misguided economic plan, which had been dubbed The Great Leap Forward.

Zhao managed to significantly improve the province's economy, to the extent that many in Sichuan developed a rhyme, "yao chi liang, Zhao Ziyang", which means "If you want to eat, Zhao is your man."

On the back of his success, Zhao's status improved and Deng Xiaoping saw a role for him on the national scene. Zhao was inducted into the Politburo as an alternate member in 1977 and as a full member in 1979. He was then promoted him to Premier (Prime Minister) in 1980, and later he was also made Communist Party General Secretary.

Zhao Ziyang was a leading reformer and introduced significant economic reforms while in office, but he was removed in 1989 after he opposed using military force against the pro-democracy student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. He had also gone to Tiananmen Square and personally appealed to the demonstrators to leave.

He was placed under house arrest and was never again seen in public after 19 May 1989. Wang Dan, who helped lead the Tiananmen protests, said Zhao represented "Chinese Communist Party members with a conscience".

Zhao Ziyang died on 17 January 2005.

On 14 May 2009, The Telegraph published extracts from Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang.

Back to Top

Latest User CommentsAdd your comment
Add your comment
To ensure you are a real person and not a computer please enter the following characters shown below: