Hua Guofeng, the man who succeeded Mao Zedong as China’s second Communist leader, died today at age 87, the Daily Telegraph reports. Guofeng was most noted for arresting the “Gang of Four,” a group of radicals, led by Mao’s widow, bent on miring China in isolated class-struggle. The decisive arrests may have staved off unrest and civil war, and paved the way for moderates like Deng Xiaoping.
Hua was otherwise an unremarkable figure, lacking vision and boldness. He ascended to China’s top job mostly through luck and loyalty to Mao, and was soon outwitted by opponents, particularly Deng, and reduced to a pitiful figure. He was eventually driven from office, though he retained his seat on the central committee until 2002.