Throughout the Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, Liu served successively as head of the North China, Central Plains, and Central China Bureaus, engaging in underground and organizational works and helping to ensure eventual victory in both wars. After the PRC's birth in October 1949, Liu became the second vice chairman of the state and concurrently the general secretary of the CCP. In April 1959 he succeeded Mao Zedong as the PRC's chairman. During Liu's chairmanship, the Sino-Soviet split became increasingly irreconcilable, taking on a heavy ideological tone. Liu viciously attacked the Soviets' revisionism and rapprochement with the West, insisting that permanent revolution should be the ultimate goal of the communist bloc.
Meanwhile, Liu became active in diplomacy as he tried to enhance the PRC's international status vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. In 1963 he toured noncommunist nations in Asia, becoming the first PRC chairman to visit countries outside the communist bloc.
Liu's pro-Maoist position, however, did not save him from the ultraleftist Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Indeed, his growing influence and power ultimately aroused Mao's suspicion. In October 1968 Liu was relieved of all his posts, and the chairmanship was passed on to the defense minister, Lin Biao, in 1969. Liu died in prison in Kaifeng, Henan, of medically neglected diabetes on 12 November 1969.
Liu, Shaoqi. Selected Works of Liu Shaoqi. Compiled by the Editorial Committee on Party Literature of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1984.; Westad, Odd Arne, ed. Brothers in Arms: The Rise and the Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945–1953. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998.