Former Chinese leader Hua Guofeng, who ruled the country briefly after
the death of the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, is dead.
Official media says he died Wednesday of an unspecified illness.
Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
Hua Guofeng ended his life in political obscurity in Beijing, but at one time, he was at the peak of Chinese power.
time in office was short-lived - only several years - and he will be
best remembered as serving as a bridge between the fiery Mao Zedong and
the more pragmatic Deng Xiaoping.
He enjoyed a meteoric rise
through the Chinese leadership ranks during the last few years of Mao's
life, and succeeded him after Mao died in 1976.
"He was someone
the whole country greeted with a sigh of relief, including me in prison
at the time," said Sidney Rittenberg, an American who spent decades in China and was in jail when Hua took over.
Rittenberg says Hua helped maintain stability in the country, but only played a transitional role.
just didn't have the vision to see what needed to be done, to see the
monumental changes that China had to make in order to become a modern
country," he said.
Although Hua's time at the helm of China was
short, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology professor David
Zweig says he left a significant legacy of non-violent leadership
"Hua Guofeng peacefully went away," he said. "Deng
Xiaoping didn't kill him, and just said basically, 'you lost, I win, go
away.' And he did. And that, I think, was very important."
Chinese media announced Hua's death late Wednesday. The brief
dispatches described Hua as an outstanding member of the Chinese
Communist Party and a proletarian revolutionary who once held important
leading posts in the Party and Chinese government.