Hua Guofeng, the Second Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, is dead at the age of 87.
Born in Shanxi province, he joined the Red Army when he was fifteen. He became a full Party member in 1938 and was assigned to Hunan province after the Communists took it over. He probably first met Chariman Mao when Mr. Hua was Party secretary in Chairman Mao’s birthplace Shaoshan.

He was named Deputy Prime Minister in 1975 and succeeded Zhou Enlai when he died the following year. When Chairman Mao died later in 1976, Mr. Hua succeeded him as the Party’s Second Chairman.

The newly-minted Chairman greeted RN when he revisited the PRC, as the guest of the government, in the fall of 1976. (There is no record of Chairman Hua expressing the same sentiment as Georges Pompidou at General DeGaulle’s funeral when he said to RN: “Enfin seuls.”)

Chairman Hua’s obituary outlines his life. An analysis of his career in the Telegraph (London) concludes that he was “a man who helped China to break with an unhappy past and yet remained tarnished by it.”

In an interview in 1983, RN described Chairman Hua as “stolid, tough–they’re all tough–strong, unimaginative. I thought he was a good party operator, but I did not think he had any kind of charisma that would have him last too long.”