Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Lin Biao (1907–1971)

Vice premier of the People's Republic of China (PRC) during 1955–1971. Born in Huanggang, Hubei Province, on 5 December 1907, Lin Biao enrolled at the Huangpu Military Academy in 1925. He graduated the following year, joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and enlisted in the armed forces. His military talents earned him the command of the 115th Division of the Eighth Route Army, one of the three components of the Chinese communist forces during the Sino-Japanese War. Wounded in early 1938, he retired from active military duty and went to Yan'an, Shaanxi, where he was involved in troop training and liaison work. He was then assigned to northern China, where he helped establish a powerful base that ensured the CCP's 1949 victory in the Chinese Civil War.

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.

Law Yuk-fun


Further Reading
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.
 

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