Zhao Ziyang was a high-ranking politician in China. As a senior government official, Zhao was critical of Maoist policies and instrumental in implementing reforms, first in Sichuan. He emerged on the scene due to support from Deng Xiaoping after the Cultural Revolution. He also sought measures to streamline Chinas bureaucracy and fight corruption, Zhao Ziyang was also an advocate of the privatization of state-owned enterprises, the separation of the Party and the state, and general market economic reforms. Many of these views were shared by General Secretary Hu Yaobang, Zhao also began to lose favour with paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. In the aftermath of the events, Zhao was purged politically and effectively placed under house arrest for the next 15 years, in 2005, he died from a stroke in Beijing. Because of his fall from grace, he was not given the funeral rites generally accorded to senior Chinese officials. His unofficial autobiography was published in English and in Chinese in 2009, Zhao was born Zhao Xiuye, but changed his given name to Ziyang while attending middle school in Wuhan. He was the son of a landlord in Hua County, Henan. Zhao joined the Communist Youth League in 1932, and became a member of the Party in 1938. Unlike many Party members active in the 1930s and 1940s who later became senior Chinese leaders and he served in the Peoples Liberation Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the subsequent civil war, but his posts were largely administrative. Zhaos career was not especially notable before he emerged as a Party leader in Guangdong in the early 1950s, Zhaos faith in Mao led him to take a leading role in a local campaign aimed at torturing peasants into revealing their imaginary food supplies. Through supporting the Great Leap Forward, Zhao was partially responsible for the millions of people who died from starvation and malnutrition in Guangdong between 1958 and 1961. Zhaos experiences during the Great Leap Forward led him to moderate political and economic policies, including those supported by Deng Xiaoping. He led efforts to re-introduce limited amounts of agriculture and commerce. After achieving senior positions in Guangdong, Zhao directed a purge of cadres accused of corruption or having ties to the Kuomintang. By 1965 Zhao was the Party secretary of Guangdong province, despite not being a member of the Communist Party Central Committee and he was forty-six at the time that he first became Party secretary, a notably young age to hold such a prestigious position. Because of his political orientation, Zhao was attacked by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution
Image: Zhao Ziyang (1985)
President Reagan walking with Zhao during his visit to the White House on 10 January 1984.
Zhao was hosted by US president Ronald Reagan at the White House on January 10, 1984 as part of a broader effort to improve China's relations with the West.
Premier Zhao Ziyang of the People's Republic of China on a tour of the USS Arizona memorial on 7 January 1984.