Died when: 77 years 311 days
Star Sign: Pisces
Zhou Enlai (Chinese: 周恩来; Wade–Giles: Chou En-Lai ; 5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976), also known as Zhou Xiangyu (courtesy name), was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China. Zhou was China's head of government, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976. Zhou served under Chairman Mao Zedong and was instrumental in the Communist Party's rise to power, and later in consolidating its control, forming foreign policy, and developing the Chinese economy. A skilled and able diplomat, Zhou served as the Chinese foreign minister from 1949 to 1958. Advocating peaceful coexistence with the West after the Korean War, he participated in the 1954 Geneva Conference and the 1955 Bandung Conference, and helped orchestrate Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China. He helped devise policies regarding the bitter disputes with the United States, Taiwan, the Soviet Union (after 1960), India and Vietnam. Zhou survived the purges of other top officials during the Cultural Revolution. While Mao dedicated most of his later years to political struggle and ideological work, Zhou was the main driving force behind the affairs of state during much of the Cultural Revolution. His attempts at mitigating the Red Guards' damage and his efforts to protect others from their wrath made him immensely popular in the Cultural Revolution's later stages. As Mao's health began to decline in 1971 and 1972 and following the death of disgraced Lin Biao, Zhou was elected to the vacant position of First Vice Chairman of the Communist Party by the 10th Central Committee in 1973 and thereby designated as Mao's successor (the third person after Liu Shaoqi and Lin), but still struggled against the Gang of Four internally over leadership of China. His last major public appearance was at the first meeting of the 4th National People's Congress on 13 January 1975, where he presented the government work report. He then fell out of the public eye for medical treatment and died one year later. The massive public outpouring of grief in Beijing turned to anger at the Gang of Four, leading to the 1976 Tiananmen Incident. Although Zhou was succeeded by Hua Guofeng as First Vice Chairman and designated successor, Zhou's ally Deng Xiaoping was able to outmaneuver the Gang of Four politically and took Hua's place as paramount leader by 1978.