After the establishment of the PRC in October 1949, Lin became secretary of the Central-South Bureau and commander of the Central-South Military Region. In 1955 he became vice premier, vice chairman of the National Defense Council, a member of the CCP Central Committee, and a marshal of the People's Liberation Army. In September 1959 he assumed the posts of defense minister and the senior vice chairmanship of the National Defense Council. His power and influence peaked during the ultraleftist Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Presenting himself as the spokesman for Chinese leader Mao Zedong, Lin advocated world communist revolution and resistance to American imperialism.
In April 1969 Lin replaced Liu Shaoqi as Mao's successor and heir apparent. Lin did not, however, remain long in power. It was alleged that, emboldened by his military power, he had staged an abortive coup in 1971. Having failed to assassinate Mao (as officially reported), Lin attempted to flee to the Soviet Union but died in an airplane crash on 13 September 1971 near the Mongolian border.
Bamberg, James. British Petroleum and Global Oil, 1950-75: The Challenge to Nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.; Joffe, Ellis. Party and Army: Professionalism and Political Control in the Chinese Officer Corps, 1949–1964. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.