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Liu Shaoqi
President of the People's Republic of China

In office
28 April 1959 – 31 October 1968
Premier Zhou Enlai
Vice President Dong Biwu
Song Qingling
Leader Mao Zedong
(CPC Chairman)
Preceded by Mao Zedong
Succeeded by Vacant, next held by
Li Xiannian (in 1983)
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress

In office
1st National People's Congress

In office
September 15, 1956 – April 28, 1957
Preceded by Position Created
Succeeded by Zhu De
Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China

In office
28 September 1956 – 1 August 1966
Chairman Mao Zedong
Member of the
National People's Congress

In office
15 September 1954 – 21 October 1968
Constituency Beijing At-large
Personal details
Born (1898-11-24)24 November 1898
Ningxiang, Hunan, Qing Empire
Died 12 November 1969(1969-11-12) (aged 70)
Kaifeng, Henan, People's Republic of China
Nationality Chinese
Political party Communist Party of China
Spouse(s) Wang Guangmei
Children Liu Yuan
Liu Ting

Liu Shaoqi (pinyin: Liú Shàoqí; Wade–Giles: Liu Shao-ch'i; IPA: [ljǔ ʂâʊtɕʰǐ]; 24 November 1898 – 12 November 1969) was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee from 1954 to 1959 and President of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 1959 to 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China. He fell out of favour in the later 1960s during the Cultural Revolution because of his perceived 'right-wing' viewpoints and because Mao viewed Liu as a threat to his power. He disappeared from public life in 1968 and was labelled China's premier 'Capitalist-roader' and a traitor. He died under harsh treatment in late 1969, but he was posthumously rehabilitated by Deng Xiaoping's government in 1980 and given a state funeral.



Born into a moderately rich peasant family in Huaminglou village,[1] Ningxiang county, Hunan province,[2] Liu attended Ningxiang Zhusheng Middle School (宁乡 驻省 中学 Nìng-xiāng zhù-shěng zhōng-xué), and was recommended to attend a class in Shanghai prepared for studying in Russia. In 1920, Liu and Ren Bishi joined a Socialist Youth Corp; and in the next year, Liu was recruited to study at the Comintern's University of the Toilers of the East in Moscow.[1] In 1921 Liu joined the newly formed Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Liu went back to China in 1922, and as secretary of the All-China Labor Syndicate, led several railway workers' strikes in the Yangzi Valley and at Anyuan on the Jiangxi-Hunan border.[1]

Early political activities

In 1925 Liu became a member of the Guangzhou-based All-China Federation of Labor Executive Committee. During the next two years Liu led numerous political campaigns and strikes in Hubei and Shanghai. Liu worked with Li Lisan in Shanghai in 1925, organizing Communist activity following the May Thirtieth Incident. After his work in Shanghai Liu traveled to Wuhan. Liu was briefly arrested in Changsha and then returned to Guangzhou to help organize the 16-month long Canton-Hong Kong strike.[3]

In 1927 Liu was elected to the Party's Central Committee, and was appointed to the head of its Labor Department.[4] In 1929 Liu returned to work at the Party headquarters in Shanghai, and was named Secretary of the Manchurian Party Committee in Fengtian.[5] In 1930 and 1931, Liu attended the Third and Fourth Plenums of the Sixth Central Committee, and was elected to the Central Executive Committee (i.e., Politburo) of the Chinese Soviet Republic in 1931 or 1932. Later in 1932 Liu left Shanghai and traveled to the Jiangxi Soviet.[6]

Senior leader

In 1932 Liu became the Party Secretary of Fujian Province. In 1934 Liu accompanied the Long March at least as far as the crucial Zunyi Conference, but was then sent to the so-called "White Areas" (areas controlled by the Kuomintang) to reorganize underground activities in northern China, centered around Beijing and Tianjin. In 1936 Liu became Party Secretary in North China, leading the anti-Japanese movements in that area with the assistance of Peng Zhen, An Ziwen, Bo Yibo, Ke Qingshi, Liu Lantao, and Yao Yilin. In 1939 Liu ran the Central Plains Bureau; and, in 1941, the Central China Bureau. Some Japanese sources have alleged that the activities of Liu's organization sparked the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July 1937, which gave Japan the excuse to launch the Second Sino-Japanese War.[7]

In 1937 Liu traveled to the Communist base at Yanan; and, in 1941, Liu became a political commissar of the New Fourth Army.[7] In 1945 Liu was elected as one of five CCP Secretaries at the Seventh National Party Congress. After the Seventh National Party Congress Liu became the supreme leader of all Communist forces in Manchuria and northern China,[7] a stature frequently overlooked by historians.

In 1949, Liu became the Vice Chairman of the Central People's Government. In 1954, China adopted a new constitution at the first National People's Congress (NPC). At the Congress's first session, Liu was elected chairman of the Congress's Standing Committee, a position he held until the second NPC in 1959. From 1956 to his downfall in 1966, Liu ranked as the First Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China.[7] Liu's work focused on party organizational and theoretical affairs.[8] Liu was an orthodox Soviet-style Communist, and favored state planning and the development of heavy industry. Liu elaborated upon his political and economic beliefs in his writings. His best known works include How to be a Good Communist (1939), On the Party (1945), and Internationalism and Nationalism (1952).


When Mao's Great Leap Forward became politically and popularly disastrous, Liu was the first senior politician to openly denounce the policy at the Eighth CCP National Congress in May 1958.[9] At this Congress Liu stood together with Deng Xiaoping and Peng Zhen against those who supported Mao's policies, led by Chen Yun and Zhou Enlai. Liu's criticism gained him influence within the party and in April 1959, he succeeded Mao as President of the People's Republic of China. Liu voiced further indications of concern in the August 1959 Lushan Plenum.[9] In order to correct the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward, Liu and Deng led economic reforms which bolstered their prestige among the party apparatus and the national populace. Once, he said to Mao: "People write books about cannibalism!" [10] The economic policies of Deng and Liu were notable for being more moderate than Mao's radical ideas.

Conflict with Mao

Liu was publicly acknowledged as Mao's chosen successor in 1961[1] but by 1962 his opposition to Mao's policies had led Mao to distrust Liu.[11] After Mao succeeded in restoring his prestige during the 1960s,[12] Liu's eventual downfall became "inevitable". Liu's position as the second most powerful leader of the CCP contributed to Mao's rivalry with Liu at least as much as Liu's political beliefs or factional allegiances in the 1960s,[11] indicating that Liu's later persecution was the result of a power struggle that went beyond the goals and wellbeing of either China or the Party.

By 1966, there were few senior leaders in China that questioned the need for a widespread reform to combat the growing problems of corruption and bureaucratization within the Party and the government. With the goal of reforming the government to be more efficient and true to the Communist ideal, Liu himself chaired the enlarged Politburo meeting that officially began the Cultural Revolution. However, Liu and his political allies quickly lost control of the Cultural Revolution soon after it was called, as Mao used the movement to monopolize political power and to destroy his perceived enemies.[13]

Whatever its other causes, the Cultural Revolution, declared in 1966, was overtly pro-Maoist, and gave Mao the power and influence to purge the Party of his political enemies at the highest levels of government. Along with closing China's schools and universities, and Mao's exhortations to young Chinese to randomly destroy old buildings, temples, and art, and to attack their teachers, school administrators, party leaders, and parents,[14][citation needed] the Cultural Revolution also increased Mao's prestige so much that entire villiages adopted the practice of offering prayers to Mao before every meal.[15][citation needed] In both national politics and Chinese popular culture, Mao established himself as a demigod accountable to no one, purging any that he suspected of opposing him[16] and directing the masses and Red Guards "to destroy virtually all state and party institutions".[13] After the Cultural Revolution was announced, most of the most senior members of the CPP who had voiced any hesitation in following Mao's direction, including Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, were removed from their posts almost immediately; and, with their families, subjected to mass criticism and humiliation.[14][citation needed]

Liu and Deng, along with many others, were denounced as "capitalist roaders". Liu was labeled as a "traitor" and "the biggest capitalist roader in the Party". In July 1966 Liu was displaced as Party Deputy Chairman by Lin Biao. By 1967 Liu and his wife, Wang Guangmei, were placed under house arrest in Beijing. Liu was removed from all his positions and expelled from the Party in October 1968. After his arrest Liu disappeared from public view.

Vilification, death and rehabilitation

After his arrest in 1967 Liu was beaten regularly at public denunciation meetings. He was denied medicine for his diabetes, by then a long-term illness, and for pneumonia, which he developed after his arrest. Liu was eventually given treatment only when Jiang Qing feared he would die; she desired that Liu be kept alive to serve as a "living target" during the Ninth Party Congress in 1969.[17]

At the Congress, Liu was denounced as a traitor and an enemy agent. Zhou Enlai read the Party verdict that Liu was "a criminal traitor, enemy agent and scab in the service of the imperialists, modern revisionists [Russians] and the Kuomintang reactionaries". Liu's conditions did not improve after he was denounced in the Congress, and he died soon afterward.[17][18]

Interviews with Mao's surviving colleagues show Mao seemed to enjoy toying with his victims before eliminating them. For example, he called Liu in from house arrest and told him he was pleased with Liu's self-criticism, however, almost immediately afterward he permitted Liu's public beating and torture, which continued for more than a year subsequently killing him in 1969.[19]

Liu died within a month of his expulsion from the Party.[20] Several weeks after his death, Red Guards discovered Liu lying on the floor covered in diarrhea and vomit, with a foot[Clarification needed] of unkempt hair protruding from his scalp. At midnight, under secrecy, his remains were brought in a jeep to a crematorium, his legs hanging out the back, and he was cremated under the name Liu Huihuang. The cause of death was recorded as illness. Liu's family was not informed for another three years after this date, and his death was not made public to the people in China for ten years. In February 1980, two years after Deng Xiaoping came to power, the Fifth Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued the "Resolution on the Rehabilitation of Comrade Liu Shaoqi." The resolution not only declared Liu's ouster to be unjust, but called him "a great Marxist and proletarian revolutionary" and one of the principal leaders of the Party. It also removed the labels of "renegade, traitor and scab" that had been attached to him at the time of his death. It blamed Liu's ouster on Lin Biao, charging him with "concocting false evidence" against Liu and working with the Gang of Four to subject him to "political frame-up and physical persecution." A memorial was held for Liu on May 17, 1980 and his ashes were scattered into the sea at Qingdao in accordance with his last wishes.[21][22]

Personal life

Liu married five times, including He Baozhen (何宝珍)[23] and Wang Guangmei (王光美).[24] His third wife Xie Fei (谢飞) came from Wenchang, Hainan and was one of the few women on the 1934 Long March.[25] His wife at the time of his death in 1969, Wang Guangmei, was thrown in prison by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution where she was subjected to the harsh conditions of solitary confinement for more than a decade.[19]

See also

  • History of the People's Republic of China


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dittmer, Lowell, Liu Shao-ch’i and the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The Politics of Mass Criticism, University of California Press (Berkeley), 1974, p. 27
  2. Snow, Edgar, Red Star Over China, Random House (New York), 1938. Citation is from the Grove Press 1973 edition, p.482-484
  3. Dittmer, p. 14
  4. Chen, Jerome. Mao and the Chinese Revolution, (London), 1965, p. 148
  5. Dittmer, p. 15
  6. Snow, p. 482-484
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Dittmer 1974, p. 17 citing Tetsuya Kataoka, Resistance and Revolution in China: The Communists and the Second United Front, 1974 pre-publication.
  8. Dittmer 1974, p. 206
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dittmer 1974, p. 39–40
  10. "刘少奇回应毛泽东:人相食要上书的!_星岛环球网_揭秘". 2007-11-16. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Qiu Jin, The Culture of Power: the Lin Biao Incident in the Cultural Revolution, Stanford University Press: Stanford, California. 1999, p.53
  12. Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China, New York: W.W. Norton and Company. 1999. ISBN 0-393-97351-4 p.566.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Qiu Jin, The Culture of Power: the Lin Biao Incident in the Cultural Revolution, Stanford University Press: Stanford, California. 1999, p.45
  14. 14.0 14.1 Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China, New York: W.W. Norton and Company. 1999. ISBN 0-393-97351-4 p.575.
  15. Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China, New York: W.W. Norton and Company. 1999. ISBN 0-393-97351-4 p.584
  16. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen. Zhou Enlai: A Political Life. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2006. ISBN 962-996-280-2 p.4
  17. 17.0 17.1 Chung, Jang. White Swans: Three Daughters of China. Touchstone: New York, NY. 2003. p.391. ISBN 0-7432-4698-5.
  18. Glover, Jonathan (1999). Humanity : A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. London: J. Cape. p. 289. ISBN 0-300-08700-4. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Lieberthal, Kenneth. Governing China: From Revolution to Reform. w.w.Norton, New York 1995. 
  20. Frensh, Howard W. "Surviving Mao, Revamping a Nation". Wall Street Journal. October 22, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  21. "Rehabilitation of Liu Shaoqi (Feb. 1980)". Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  22. Liu Shaoqi at Encyclopedia Britannica
  23. "The wives of Liu Xioaqi (刘少奇婚姻家庭)" (in Chinese). Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  24. "Interview with former Chairman Liu Xiaoqi’s wife He Baozhen (前国家主席刘少奇夫人王光美访谈录)" (in Chinese). Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  25. "Extraordinary wife of Liu Xiaoqi at the time of the Long March (长征时与刘少奇结伉俪,琼籍女红军传奇人生)" (in Chinese). Retrieved January 29, 2011. 


  • "Fifth Plenary Session of 11th C.C.P. Central Committee," Beijing Review, No. 10 (10 March 1980), pp. 3–10, which describes the official rehabilitation measures.

External links

Political offices
New title Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
Succeeded by
Zhu De
Preceded by
Mao Zedong
Chairman of the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by
Dong Biwu and Song Qingling (acting)
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mao Zedong
President of the CPC Central Party School
Succeeded by
Kai Feng
New title Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China
Served alongside: Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Chen Yun, Lin Biao

Succeeded by
Lin Biao

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