Upon the establishment of the PRC in 1949, Yang became director of the General Office of the CCP Central Committee and handled the party's daily administrative affairs, a post that familiarized him with all aspects of party operations. In 1966 he was purged during the Cultural Revolution and imprisoned. In 1979 he returned to power, first as secretary and then as vice governor of Guangdong Province. In 1981 he transferred to Beijing as a Politburo member and permanent vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, in which capacities he became active in foreign affairs, leading a number of delegations abroad to promote the PRC's international standing. In 1988 he was elected the PRC's president and concurrently appointed the first vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, thus becoming the second most powerful figure in Chinese politics after Deng Xiaoping. On 4 June 1989, Yang ordered the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to crack down on the prodemocracy student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. In 1993 he retreated from his duties. Yang died on 14 September 1998 in Beijing.
Meisner, Maurice. Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic. New York: Free Press, 1999.