(born Aug. 22, 1904, Guang'an, Sichuan province, China—died Feb. 19, 1997, Beijing) Chinese communist leader, China's most important figure from the late 1970s until his death. In the 1950s he became a vice-premier of the People's Republic of China and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He fell from favour during the Cultural Revolution but was rehabilitated in 1973 under the sponsorship of Zhou Enlai. Though seen as a likely successor to Zhou as premier, Deng was again ousted, this time by the Gang of Four, when Zhou died in 1976. However, Mao Zedong died later that year, and in the ensuing political struggle the Gang of Four was arrested; Deng was rehabilitated for a second time. His protégés Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang became premier and CCP general secretary, respectively. Both embraced Deng's wide-reaching reform program, which introduced free-enterprise elements into the economy. Hu died in April 1989, and Zhao was dismissed from the government after the Tiananmen Square incident in June. Deng gradually relinquished his official posts but continued to guide China until his death.
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