Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Hu Yaobang (1915–1989)

Chairman and secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Born in Liuyang, Hunan Province, on 20 August 1915, Hu Yaobang attended school only to age fourteen and then joined the Chinese communists' Youth Works. In 1933 he became a member of the CCP. During the Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War he was assigned to party work in central and southwestern China under the tutelage of future PRC leader Deng Xiaoping, which greatly facilitated Hu's later rise to power.

After the PRC's birth in October 1949, Hu followed Deng to southwestern China, heading the North Sichuan People's Administrative Office. In 1952, he transferred to Beijing as director of the New Democratic Youth League. He held this post until 1966, during which time he led several youth delegations abroad to promote the PRC's ties with the socialist bloc. Hu's administrative and diplomatic talents earned him membership in the Congress Presidium, making him the youngest leader in the CCP hierarchy.

As Deng's longtime associate, Hu was purged during the Cultural Revolution. When Deng returned to power in 1977, Hu emerged from political exile as director of both the CCP's Organization Department and the Propaganda Department. He also became a member of the Politburo. In 1980, Hu succeeded Deng as secretary-general of the CCP and was elected CCP chairman the following year. Real power, however, remained in Deng's hands as the chairman of the Central Military Commission. His sole responsibility was to implement Deng's directives, including launching the Four Modernizations policy, restructuring the party apparatus with collective leadership, and promoting the PRC's international reputation. In 1987, Hu was forced to resign over his failure to control prodemocracy student demonstrations in April 1986. Hu's death in Beijing on 15 April 1989 sparked a massive student protest in Tiananmen Square, which ultimately led to the Tiananmen Square incident on 4 June 1989.

Law Yuk-fun


Further Reading
Evans, Richard. Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China. Rev. ed. London: Penguin, 1997.; MacFarquhar, Roderick, ed. The Politics of China: The Eras of Mao and Deng. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
 

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