Li Xiannian

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Li Xiannian
Li Xiannian - 1974.jpg
President of the People's Republic of China
In office
18 June 1983 – 8 April 1988
Premier Zhao Ziyang
Li Peng
Vice President Ulanhu
Leader Deng Xiaoping
Preceded by Vacant, (see Ye Jianying)
Succeeded by Yang Shangkun
Chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC
In office
April 1988 – March 1993
Preceded by Deng Yingchao
Succeeded by Li Ruihuan
Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China
In office
July 1977 – September 1982
Chairman Hua Guofeng
Hu Yaobang
Member of the
National People's Congress
In office
15 September 1954 – 25 March 1988
Constituency Hubei At-large
Personal details
Born (1909-06-23)23 June 1909
Hong'an, Huanggang, Hubei, Qing Dynasty
Died 21 June 1992(1992-06-21) (aged 82)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Nationality Chinese
Political party Communist Party of China
Spouse(s) Lin Mei
Children Li Xiaolin
Li Xiannian

Li Xiannian (pronounced [lì ɕjánnjân]; 23 June 1909 – 21 June 1992) was President of the People's Republic of China between 1983 and 1988[1] and then Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until his death. Li was an influential political figure throughout the PRC, having been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China from 1956. He rose to prominence in the Communist Party of China in 1976, when Hua Guofeng succeeded Mao Zedong as Chairman of the Communist Party of China. At the height of his career in the 1980s, Li was considered one of the most influential architects of China's economic policy after the Cultural Revolution,[2] and is considered one of the Eight Elders of Communist Party of China.


Early career[edit]

Li joined the Communist Party of China in 1927, and served as an army captain and political commissar for the Chinese Red Army during the Long March.

Maoist politician[edit]

After the Communists' victory in China, Li was appointed Party Secretary of Hubei Province in China from 1949–1954, and he served as the commander and political commissar of the Hubei Province's military garrison. In 1950, Li was elected the first Chairman of the Hubei People's Government. While he was working in Hubei, Li was appointed Party Secretary of Wuhan and Vice-Chairman of the PRC's Military Commission for South-Central China.

In 1954, Li was appointed China's Minister of Finance. He held this position for 13 years, until the Cultural Revolution. Li was also appointed Vice Premier for the entire period of 1954–1980. In 1967, he fell out of favour during the Cultural Revolution.

Li was notable as the only civilian official to serve with Premier Zhou Enlai throughout the entire Cultural Revolution.[3]:xviii In 1976, during the final days of the Cultural Revolution. Li played an instrumental role in destroying the Gang Of Four. After the demise of the Gang of Four, Li was appointed Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China and a member of the Central Military Commission.

Post-Mao politician and Presidency[edit]

When Hua Guofeng rose to leadership after the death of Mao Zedong, Li became Hua's chief economic adviser. If Hua had been successful in his efforts to achieve supreme power, Li would have become one of the most powerful officials in China, but Li's political career stalled when Deng Xiaoping eclipsed Hua as China's "Paramount Leader". For the rest of his career, Li grumbled that his own achievements during the brief Hua interregnum were not sufficiently recognized as the basis of the progress experienced in China during the 1980s.[3]:xviii Li supported Deng's reform and helped Deng in the rise to power.[4]

Li resented the younger officials who Deng promoted above him, most notably Zhao Ziyang. Li was a prominent opponent of Zhao's efforts to reform the Chinese economy, and disliked Zhao personally for Zhao's appreciation of "foreign stuff" and for Zhao's willingness to learn from the economic models that had been successful for the Asian Tiger economies and for the West. According to Zhao, Li "hated me because I was implementing Deng Xiaoping's reforms, but since it was difficult for him to openly oppose Deng, he made me the target of his opposition."[3]:xviii-xix

In 1983, after the passing of a new constitution, Li was appointed state president at the age of 74. According to the 1982 Constitution, the role of President was "largely ceremonial", but recognized Li's role as a respected Party elder. In 1984, Li Met with US President Ronald Reagan during Reagan's visit to China, notably discussing the status of Taiwan with the President.[5] Li visited the United States in July 1985, the first time a Head of State from the People's Republic China visited the USA.

In 1988, Li resigned from his position as President of the People's Republic of China and was replaced by Yang Shangkun. Li was then named Chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC. He was a strong supporter of Jiang Zemin's rise to power,[6] and during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Li was one of the hardline Party elders who pushed for a strong response to the demonstrations and supported premier Li Peng's desire to use military force to suppress the protests. Li continued to serve in government until his death in 1992.


Li had four children. Two daughters are doctors and his only son is a PLA general. Youngest is daughter Li Xiaolin (not to be confused with Li Xiaolin, daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng) who is president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, having spent her entire career with the organisation, other than two years as a secretary at the Chinese embassy in the United States. She is a member of the CPPCC national committee.[7][8]

In 2014, Li Xiaolin said her father had insisted his children did not go into business, and take advantange of his political position.[7]


Li died on 21 June 1992 at the age of 83. His funeral was held on 27 June 1992, and was attended by thousands of people.


  1. ^ Li, Xiaobing (2012). China at War: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-59884-415-3. 
  2. ^ Brandt, Loren; Rawski, Thomas G. (2008). China's Great Economic Transformation. Cambridge University Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-521-88557-7. "In economic policy, the most important elders were Li Xiannian and Chen Yun." 
  3. ^ a b c MacFarquhar, Roderick. "Foreword" in Zhao Ziyang (2009). Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1-4391-4938-0
  4. ^ "China marks 100th birth anniversary of former president Li Xiannian". Government of the People's Republic of China. 24 June 2009. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Anderson, Kurt (7 May 1984). "History Beckons Again". Time. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  6. ^ The Epoch Times Staff (2005). "Chapter 4" (ebook). The Real Story of China's Jiang Zemin. 
  7. ^ a b 'I'll break your legs if you go into business': former president's career advice to children, SCMP, 17 March, 2014
  8. ^ Prominent Chinese Families,
Political offices
New title Governor of Hubei
Succeeded by
Liu Zihou
Preceded by
Deng Xiaoping
Minister of Finance of the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by
Zhang Jifu
Preceded by
Zhang Chunqiao
First-ranking Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by
Deng Xiaoping
Preceded by
Ye Jianying
as Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
President of the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by
Yang Shangkun
Preceded by
Deng Yingchao
Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
Succeeded by
Li Ruihuan
Party political offices
New title Secretary of the CPC Hubei Committee
Succeeded by
Wang Renzhong
Preceded by
Ye Jianying
Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China
Served alongside: Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, Zhao Ziyang, Ye Jianying, Hua Guofeng

Post abolished