Hu Yaobang Chinese Politician Essay

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Hu’s meteoric career rise continued with his appointment as governor of Guizhou (Kweichow) province in 1985. In 1988 he took over as party chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region at a time of great political turmoil. Hu ordered and led a political crackdown in Tibet in early 1989. During the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), his name emerged as a potential future leader. In his 50s, he became the youngest member of the seven-person Politburo Standing Committee. In 1993 he became secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and vice president of China in 1998.

Hu ascended to the office of party general secretary at the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2002, at a time of immense change for China. Economically, politically, and socially, China faced difficult issues, including the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the uncertainty of a rapidly globalizing economy.

Hu Yaobang was born to a peasant family in Hunan Province and joined the Chinese Communist forces at age 14. He became a party member in 1933. He became a protégé of Deng Xiaoping after serving under him in the Chinese Red Army, although they had many differences of opinion on political and philosophical issues. After the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Hu held many positions within the national government.

Hu became head of the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department, then became general secretary in 1980 and chair in 1981. Hu attempted to create a more flexible, less dogmatic government that would seek practical and flexible solutions to particular problems rather than relying on rigid applications of Maoist ideology. He was also a strong champion of reform and democratization within the party and oversaw the rehabilitation of thousands of people, from party leaders to ordinary Chinese citizens, who had been unjustly exiled or imprisoned.

Hu was forced to resign in 1987 and compelled to sign a statement of “self-criticism,” accepting responsibility for his failure to crack down on a series of student protests the previous year. He retained his seat on the Politburo, however, until he died of a heart attack two years later.

His death on April 15, 1989, sparked the Tiananmen Square Democracy Movement, which began with public protests and a hunger strike by thousands of students in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. The protesters were brutally suppressed by the Chinese government, culminating in what is now termed the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989.


  1. Hutchings, Gordon. Modern China: A Century of Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001;
  2. Meisner, Maurice J. The Deng Xiaoping Era: An Inquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978–1994. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996;
  3. Yang, Zhong Mei. Hu Yao Bang: A Chinese Biography. Timothy Cheek, ed., with a foreword by Rudolf G. Wagner. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1988.

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