Yang Shangkun

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Yang Shangkun
杨尚昆
Yang Shangkun.jpg
Yang in 1940
President of the People's Republic of China
In office
8 April 1988 – 27 March 1993
Premier Li Peng
Vice President Wang Zhen
Leader Deng Xiaoping
Jiang Zemin
Preceded by Li Xiannian
Succeeded by Jiang Zemin
Secretary-General of the CPC Central Military Commission
In office
August 1945 – November 1956
Succeeded by Huang Kecheng
In office
July 1981 – November 1989
Preceded by Geng Biao
Succeeded by Yang Baibing
Member of the
National People's Congress
In office
21 December 1964 – 13 January 1975
Constituency PLA At-large
In office
25 March 1988 – 15 March 1993
Constituency Sichuan At-large
7th Mayor of Guangzhou
In office
1979–1981
Preceded by Jiao Linyi
Succeeded by Liang Lingguang
Personal details
Born (1907-07-05)5 July 1907
Tongnan, Chongqing, Sichuan, Qing Dynasty
Died 14 September 1998(1998-09-14) (aged 91)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Nationality Chinese
Political party Communist Party of China
Spouse(s) Li Bozhao (d.1985)
Children Yang Shaoming
Yang Shaojun
Yang Li
Signature
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yang.
Yang Shangkun
Traditional Chinese 楊尚昆
Simplified Chinese 杨尚昆
Yang(right) with Nikolai Bulganin.

Yang Shangkun (5 July 1907 – 14 September 1998) was President of the People's Republic of China from 1988 to 1993, and was a powerful Vice Chairman and Secretary-General of the Central Military Commission under Deng Xiaoping. He married Li Bozhao in 1929, one of the few women to participate in the Long March, as did Yang.

Yang attended university in Shanghai before studying Marxist theory in Moscow, making him one of the most well-educated leaders of the early Communist Party of China. Yang returned to China as one of the 28 Bolsheviks and originally supported the early communist leader Zhang Guotao, but switched allegiance to Mao's faction during the Long March. He served as a political commissar during the Chinese Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War.

After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, Yang held a number of political positions, eventually becoming a member of the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. He was purged when the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, and was not recalled until 1978, after Deng Xiaoping rose to power where he became one of the Eight Elders of China. Yang promoted economic reform but opposed political liberalization, a position which Deng eventually came to identify with. Yang reached the height of his political career after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, but his organized opposition to Jiang Zemin's leadership led Deng to force Yang to retire.

Revolutionary career[edit]

Yang was born to a land-owning family[1] in Shuangjiang, Tongnan County, near the city of Chongqing in Sichuan, and studied at Chengdu Higher Normal School and its affiliated secondary school in 1920–25, and then returned to Chongqing. His older brother, Yang Yangong, was one of the founding Executive Committee members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Sichuan, and undoubtedly had an influence on Yang Shangkun’s ideological orientation. After joining the Communist Youth League in 1925, and the CCP in 1926, he enrolled in Shanghai University.[2] Later in 1926 Yang traveled to the Soviet Union to study at the Moscow Sun Yat-sen University.[1] Yang's post-secondary education made him one of the best educated early Communist Party leaders. Yang was a member of a group of Chinese students who studied in Moscow and returned to China to take a leading role in the CCP, later known as the 28 Bolsheviks.[2]

The Comintern sent Yang back to China to assist and support other pro-Comintern CCP leaders, including Bo Gu, Otto Braun (Li De), Wang Ming, and Zhang Guotao, but Yang and some of the other 28 Bolsheviks, including Ye Jianying, supported Mao in preference to leaders which the Comintern preferred. Before the Long March, Yang served in Zhang Guotao's army, but joined Mao's forces when Mao and Zhang met briefly in June–July 1935, in the middle of the Long March. After Ye Jianying fled Zhang's headquarter with all of the maps and code books to Mao's camp, Yang and another colleague also fled from Zhang Guotao's headquarter with top secret documents, and they were forced to hide along the way in order to escape the Zhang's cavalry sent to capture them. Eventually they made it safely to Mao's headquarter with these important documents. Yang's defection earned him Mao's trust, but Yang's wife was not able to leave Zhang's force, and the couple did not reunite until 1936, after Zhang's force was decisively defeated by Kuomintang warlords, and the survivors fled back to Yan'an.[citation needed]

Yang served as a military commissar throughout the Chinese Civil War[1] and the Second Sino-Japanese War. Most of Yang's service was in armies commanded by Peng Dehuai, until Peng was removed from active command in the early 1940s. After Peng was purged in 1959 for opposing Mao's Great Leap Forward, Yang was one of the few leaders of the CCP who continued to maintain a close relationship with Peng.[3]

Political career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Yang held a senior position in the CCP Central Committee from 1956 to 1966, giving him a degree of direct control over most important Communist Party affairs.[1] On the eve of the Cultural Revolution Yang was identified as a supporter of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, and was purged as a counter-revolutionary.[4] After being ejected from the Communist Party and removed from all positions, Yang was persecuted by Red Guards, who accused Yang of planting a covert listening device to spy on Mao, the same accusation shared by Deng Xiaoping.

Yang remained in prison until Mao died and Deng Xiaoping rose to power, in 1978. After Deng gained control of the military he recalled Yang, raised him to the position of general, and gave Yang the responsibility of modernizing China's army, which Deng considered backward and larger than necessary. Deng raised Yang to the position of Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission in order to give Yang the authority to complete these reforms (Deng was Chairman). In 1982 Yang was appointed to the Politburo.[5]

Yang's experiences with radical Maoism strengthened Yang's support for Deng's agenda of Chinese economic reform. Yang had a close friendship with Deng and shared many of Deng's long-term economic goals, but was far less enthusiastic about the agenda of political liberalization promoted by other senior leaders favoured by Deng, including Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, Wan Li, and Hu Qili. Throughout the 1980s, Deng came to agree with Yang's aggressive support for Chinese economic reform and his conservative stand against liberal political reform. Yang's family benefited from Deng's economic reforms, and he was able to promote his children to important posts in several state-owned monopolies that the Chinese government founded to promote economic growth.

In the early 1980s, Yang explicitly backed the efforts of a foreign China historian, Harrison Salisbury, to compile an account of the Long March by conducting extensive interviews with surviving Long March participants. The resulting book, Long March: The Untold Story, has been praised by China scholars as an excellent synthesis of first-hand oral sources. Within China, many Chinese veterans asked why it took a foreigner to produce such a book.[6]

Presidency[edit]

In 1988, Yang was appointed Chinese President replacing Li Xiannian. Under the conventions of the 1982 Constitution, the President's role was largely symbolic,[5] with formal executive power wielded by the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the Premier of the State Council. In practice, party and state leaders still deferred to paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

Yang's role during the Tiananmen protests of 1989 caused a fundamental shift in China's political structure. Yang was at first sympathetic to the students, and he sided with General Secretary Zhao Ziyang in supporting them. As the Vice Chairman and Secretary-General of the Central Military Commission, he even praised Zhao's position by claiming that “[Zhao] Ziyang’s notion of pacifying the student movement through democracy and law is good and seems quite workable right now.” Zhao's position was contested by Premier Li Peng, who wanted to use force to suppress the student demonstrations, and who engaged in an internal power struggle with Zhao to convince other senior leaders of his position.

After it became clear that Li was more successful in gaining the support of other senior CCP members, Yang changed his position, and supported Li. In May 1989 Yang appeared on Chinese television with Li, where he denounced the student demonstrations as "anarchy" and defended the imposition of martial law on several areas of Beijing affected by the protests. Under the orders of Deng Xiaoping, Li mobilized and planned the suppression of the demonstrators, an operation in which several hundred students were killed on 4 June, and on subsequent days.[5] Yang's nephew, Yang Jianhua, commanded the highly disciplined 27th Group Army, which was brought into Beijing from Hebei to suppress the demonstrators.

After 1989, Yang became extremely influential within the People's Liberation Army. Yang and his younger half-brother, Yang Baibing, purged China's military of any officers who had not sufficiently supported the government's violent crackdown on students. Yang then began an organized attempt to fill as many senior military positions as possible with his supporters, generating an attitude of resentment among other military elders, who accused Yang of attempting to dominate the army and possibly challenge Deng's authority by developing a "Yang family clique". When Deng began to groom Jiang Zemin (Party secretary of Shanghai) to succeed him as paramount leader, Yang resisted Jiang's leadership, and Deng successfully forced Yang to retire in 1993, along with some of his family.[4] Before he died in 1998, Yang Shangkun told army doctor Jiang Yanyong that "June 4" was the most serious mistake committed by the Communist Party in its history, a mistake that Yang himself could not correct but one that certainly will eventually be corrected.[7]

Yang died on 15 September 1998. His official obituary described him as "a great proletarian revolutionary, a statesman, a military strategist, a staunch Marxist, an outstanding leader of the party, the state, and the people's army."[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Eckholm 1
  2. ^ a b Xinhua
  3. ^ Domes 113
  4. ^ a b c Eckholm 1–2
  5. ^ a b c Eckholm 2
  6. ^ Teiwes 93–94
  7. ^ (Chinese) 镇压六四主将、党内斗争牺牲品杨白冰病逝 Voice of America 2013-01-17

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jiao Linyi
Chairman of the Guangzhou Revolutionary Committee
1979–1981
Succeeded by
Liang Lingguang
as Mayor of Guangzhou
Preceded by
Peng Zhen
Secretary-General of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
1980–1983
Succeeded by
Wang Hanbin
Preceded by
Li Xiannian
President of the People's Republic of China
1988–1993
Succeeded by
Jiang Zemin
Preceded by
Zhao Ziyang
First Vice Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission
1989–1993
Succeeded by
Liu Huaqing
Party political offices
Preceded by
Li Fuchun
Chief of the General Office of the Communist Party of China
1945–1965
Succeeded by
Wang Dongxing
Preceded by
none
Secretary-General of the CPC Central Military Commission
1945–1956
Succeeded by
Huang Kecheng
Preceded by
Geng Biao
Secretary-General of the CPC Central Military Commission
1981–1989
Succeeded by
Yang Baibing
Preceded by
Deng Yingchao
Leader of the Central Leading Group for Taiwan Affairs
1987–1989
Succeeded by
Jiang Zemin
Preceded by
Zhao Ziyang
First Vice Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission
1989–1992
Succeeded by
Liu Huaqing
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Deng Xiaoping
as Chairman of the Central Military Commission
(2nd ranked)
Orders of precedence in the People's Republic of China
(President of China; 3rd ranked)

1988 - 1993
Succeeded by
Li Peng
as Premier
(4th ranked)