Aug 25

Farewell, Chairman Hua

Written by DJ on Monday, August 25th, 2008 at 5:51 am
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Overshadowed by the Olympics, the news of the passing away of a former supreme leader of China, Hua Guofeng 华国锋, on August 20, 2008 wasn’t particularly noticed by many. I would like to use this post to pay respect to Chairman Hua, as he was once called when I was in my childhood, and offer condolences to his family and friends.

Hua was the designated successor to Mao Zedong 毛泽东, and assumed power upon Mao’s death in 1976. His reign, however, lasted only a couple of years before being ousted from power by Deng Xiaoping. Nevertheless, Hua has left his own mark in China’s history, both for ending the tumultuous Culture Revolution actively and for stepping out the way of Deng passively.

Instead of pretending to be an amateur historian in telling Hua’s life and career, let’s leave that job to the professional. I highly recommend everyone to check out Jeremiah’s excellent writeup at the Granite Studio for insights to Hua’s role in China’s history.

Hua’s death last week was greeted by a lot of ‘who cares?’ and ‘so whats?’ buried amidst the hype of China’s gold medal chase and the overall excitement of the games, but if we are to accept that the economic miracle which made the 2008 games possible begins with Deng Xiaoping, we should also remember that Deng’s elevation to power was not inevitable, and that at a time when the PRC seemed precariously fragile, Hua provided, at the very least, a steady hand on the wheel until the forces of economic reform could regroup and find a politically feasible time to emerge and lead China in a new direction. Hua was neither brilliant nor inspirational; he was the butt of jokes and the triumph of moderate mediocrity, but at a crucial moment in China’s recent past, he might just have been the right man for the job.

I think the following line, reportedly from a comment left at Tianya Forum, summarizes well Hua’s life:


[Hua Goufeng was] a nice person, an altruistic person, a moral person. His ending [i.e., living peacefully for near three decades since falling from power] is the best he could have gotten and the one he deserved. He did not have the skill/ability to chart the direction of history, but history should not forget the efforts by him and his peers.

Farewell, Chairman Hua.

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25 Responses to “Farewell, Chairman Hua”

  1. FOARP Says:

    No state funeral? No reporting on his (alleged) retreat to North Korea? No altering of the record to bring him back into the pantheon of Chinese leaders? Strange.

  2. BMY Says:


    the games finished yesterday.

  3. Wukailong Says:

    This was last week’s news.

    @FOARP: Retreat to North Korea? Do you have more info about that?

  4. BMY Says:

    Hua should be credit and remembered for arresting the gang of four and ending the culture revolution which has changed history forever. He might just have done that to just protect himself as the gang of four would not allow him on the post for long.

    From what I can remember, I don’t agree with Jeremiah that Hua should be credit for “reversed many Cultural Revolution-era policies, allowing greater academic and artistic freedom,10-years of plan “四个现代化“,opening China to foreign investment in key sectors etc”. Hua didn’t have experience and was not capable and unlikely to have the vision of makeing those policies and hehad “Two Whatevers (两个凡是)” Policy . It was Deng who made these policies even Hua was on the No1 post. Deng and LiuShaoQi wanted to implement those policies even in the 50s.

    Regardles these reform policies, Hua should be remembered for what he did in October 1976 .

  5. Netizen K Says:

    FOARP has been caught making up things a number of times.

  6. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen K – Like when?

    @Wukailong – All I can say is that, when I asked about what happened after he left power, more than one party member said he was living in North Korea (the ones that didn’t say they thought he was dead, that is) – now, this is another one of those rumours which it is impossible to know anything more about (like the one about Jiang Zemin and Song Zuying for example) but it would be nice to know if anyone else has heard it.

    Given the scale of the grieving following the death of other communist leaders, it is surprising that there has been no announcement of a state funeral. When you see China’s former leaders listed on television in China you almost never see him mentioned, even though he held power for at least two years, I always found this somewhat strange. Their is a disapproval of him which I never quite understood, especially given the praise heaped on his predecessor, I guess he was considered a mediocre choice and not worthy of his position, but I would have thought they would try to rehabilitate him a bit after his death.

  7. CLC Says:

    Chinabystander also paid tribute to Hua Guofeng’s Single Mark On History

  8. DJ Says:

    There was an interesting comment left at Jeremiah’s blog post on Hua last year.

    I always refer to him, in my Chinese politics class, as the Gerald Ford of China – and then I have to explain who Gerald Ford was…to the American students! Oh well, such are the burdens of non-fame.

  9. DJ Says:


    I never heard the rumor you described. Although Hua kept a very low profile in his near 30 years of retirement, it was usually possible to catch a glimpse of him at formal CCP central committee meetings (i.e., opening and closing ceremonies) because he was always included in as a regular member of the central committee.

    The funeral arrangement is not officially announced. But news is that it will be held at 八宝山革命烈士公墓, traditionally the place used for all Chinese leaders, on August 31.

  10. Netizen K Says:


    When did you make things up? Like when you alleged that Dashan had some website blocked. When I caught you lying about it, you said you didn’t really say that, which was a second lie.

    Now you are lying about Hua. When you are caught, you spit out something nonsensical. That’s typic you.

  11. DJ Says:

    Netizen K,

    I would like to defend FOARP in this case. While I have not heard people talking about Hua living in North Korea, it does not sound unlike the kind of rumors that could easily be started by people uninformed in the matter but interested in speculating what would happen to someone on the losing side in political struggles. A mistaken notion of Hua being dead before now was not something unexpected either. He did keep a very very low profile for very long.

  12. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen K – Please go and find the quotes where I am supposed to have said the things you say I’ve said – you’ll find you are quite wrong. I have not been ‘caught out lying’, this is not a news report, repeating rumour is OK so long as you represent it as such. I’m sure you’re aware that there are many events in the last fifty years where rumour is pretty much the only way of even guessing at what happened. Here’s one: Lin Biao’s ‘coup’ against Mao – what really happened? What part did Lin’s son play? Why did Lin flee? Was Lin killed on purpose? Take another: Zhou Enlai’s death – did Mao keep Zhou’s sickness from him? Did Mao deny treatment? Take our discussions about Tiananmen earlier this year – what actually happened that night? People who were at the scene only saw their immediate surroundings, and we do not have full access to the official record – so what happened? Take the Hungarian uprising of 1956 – did Mao really play such a big role in talking Kruschev into taking action? Again, we do not have a clear picture.

    But I guess you think I am just talking about ‘lies’ here.

  13. my_mother Says:

    Hey! My mother (not me, my real mum) remembers this guy. She use to tell us that there was a catch phrase they use to make her say when she was sent away for reeducation in the countryside. I think if was from Mao himself or something. My Chinese is crappy, so I will just paraphrase. It goes something like this, “Hua is taking over, I can relax now.” Maybe some of you guys can tract down the original in Chinese.

  14. BMY Says:

    @my_mother #13 你办事我放心

    This was what 伟大领袖毛主席 said to 英明领袖华主席

  15. DJ Says:

    The translation of Mao’s phrase to Hua is: “With you in charge, my heart rests at ease.”

  16. yo Says:

    So was this guy kind of like Gerald Ford, a transitional president?

  17. BMY Says:


    He wasn’t put up as a transitional president but he was in the end.

    I thought you were a overseas mainlander Chinese.

  18. opersai Says:

    Em, I remember my mom saying if Hua stayed in power, maybe our home village would be famous, as the birth place of crucial figure of Chinese leader. At least, we might get a torch relay stop like for other birth village of great leaders of recent Chinese history. =p

    I have very vague remember of him (my knowledge of China’s recent history isn’t so good).

  19. BMY Says:


    your home village was very famous in the two years when he was in power. my home village and most of other villages never got any fame in the history. So your home village still better off.:-)

  20. Wukailong Says:

    Whatever the truth in this matter is, I guess Hua ideologically would have felt more home in North Korea than in China. In NK “两个凡是” was taken for granted as it goes without question that whatever the father did was right.

  21. Dan Says:

    China’s Gerald Ford.

  22. RUMman Says:

    No state funeral?

  23. yo Says:

    @ BMY #14
    Can you translate the saying?

    Does anyone know if this guy will get a state funeral or at least some recognition? Seems kind of weird, I’m with FOARP on this one.

  24. CLC Says:

    @yo 23

    DJ alreadey translated 你办事我放心 “With you in charge, my heart rests at ease.”

    伟大领袖毛主席 great leader Chairman Mao
    英明领袖华主席 wise leader Chairman Hua

  25. yo Says:

    ah, I missed that, thanks clc

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