Hua Guofeng ((16 February 1921 – 20 August 2008), born as Su Zhu was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the paramount leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded him as Premier of the People's Republic of China. Months later, Mao died, and Hua succeeded Mao as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, to the surprise and dismay of Jiang Qing and the rest of the Gang of Four. He brought the Cultural Revolution to an end and ousted the Gang of Four from political power, but because of his insistence on continuing the Maoist line, he was himself outmaneuvered a few years later by Deng Xiaoping, who forced Hua into early retirement.
Hua moved with the PLA to Hunan in 1949 and remained there as a local official until 1971. In 1952, he was appointed secretary of Xiang-tan Special District, which included Mao's hometown, Shaoshan. In this role, he built a memorial hall dedicated to Mao. When Mao visited the site, in June 1959, he was favorably impressed.
Hua participated in the 1959 Lushan Conference as a member of the Hunan Provincial Party delegation, and wrote two investigative reports defending communes and the Great Leap Forward. Shortly thereafter, he was named provincial party secretary. He was elected a Full member of the 9th Central Committee in 1969.
Zhou Enlai died on 8 January 1976, at a time when Deng Xiaoping's moderate alliance was not yet strong enough to stand up to both the ailing Mao Zedong and his Cultural Revolution allies, the Gang of Four (Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan). After reading the late premier's eulogy a week later, Deng left Beijing along with several close allies for the relative safety of Guangzhou.
As a compromise, Hua Guofeng was named as Acting Premier on 8 February. At the same time, the leftist-controlled media began denouncing Deng once again (he had been purged during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, and was only returned to power in 1973). Popular affection for Zhou was underestimated, however, leading to a confrontation between the radicals' militia allies and Beijing citizens seeking to honor Zhou during the traditional Qingming festival.
During the Tiananmen Incident of 1976, thousands of people protested at the militia's removal of wreaths honoring Zhou in front of the Monument to the People's Heroes. Vehicles were burned, offices ransacked and there were reports of many injuries but no deaths. In the aftermath, Deng Xiaoping was blamed for inciting the protests and stripped of all his party and government posts, albeit his party memebership was retained at Mao's behest. Shortly thereafter, Hua was elevated to First Vice Chairman of the CCP Central Committee and Premier of the State Council.
On 6 October, less than a month after Mao's death, anti-Gang of Four leaders with Hua at its core executed a coup d'état and arrested Jiang Qing and her followers. On the same day, Hua Guofeng assumed the posts of Chairman of the CCP and the Military Affairs Commission shortly after the death of Mao Zedong.
The ousting of Hua was significant in at least two respects. First, it demonstrated the unimportance of official titles in the Chinese Communist Party during the late-1970s and early-1980s. Despite being the official leader of the party, the state, and the army, Hua was unable to defeat a leadership challenge by Deng Xiaoping. Second, Hua's ousting helped establish a norm within the PRC that political leaders who lost a power struggle would not be physically harmed or jailed, in contrast to the situations both during the Cultural Revolution and afterwards with the Gang of Four.
In early 2002, Hua officially lost his seat on the Central Committee of the CCP. He was, however, invited to the 17th Party Congress in 2007 as a special delegate.
Despite retaining formal party positions, Hua distanced himself from contemporary Chinese politics. His main hobby was grape cultivation, and he kept up with current affairs by subscribing to a host of newspapers. Hua's health deteriorated in 2008, and he was hospitalised three times for kidney- and heart-related complications. Hua died in Beijing on 20 August 2008.