The Glorious, Militant Life of Yang Shangkun
Yang Shangkun was a great proletarian revolutionary, statesman, strategist, staunch Marxist, outstanding leader of our Party, state and people's army. Over the past 70 years of his devotion to the revolution, he had dedicated his lifelong energies to the Chinese people's cause of liberation and construction, and made important contributions to the cause of reform, opening up and socialist modernization in the new period. The life of Yang Shangkun was a glorious and militant life

Yang Shangkun was a great proletarian revolutionary, statesman, military strategist, staunch Marxist and outstanding leader of the Party, state and the people's army.
Yang, a dedicated revolutionary for more than 70 years, devoted his life to the cause of the Chinese people's liberation and construction. He also contributed greatly to the reform, opening up and socialist modernization drive in the new era. Yang Shangkun led a glorious life as a revolutionary.
He was born on July 5, 1907, in Shuangjiang Town, Tongnan County, Sichuan Province, and the town is currently under the jurisdiction of Chongqing Municipality. Yang entered the primary school affiliated with Chengdu Higher Normal School in 1920, and later attended the institution's associated middle school. Wu Yuzhang served as president of the institution and Yun Daiying as a teacher of the institution at the time.
Yang associated himself with many advanced young people during his school years, and was a member of the social science reading society. His initial introduction to Marxism came from reading classic works such as the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" and progressive publications including "New Youth".
Yang graduated from the Chengdu Higher Normal School in 1925 at the age of 18 and returned to Chongqing.
The upsurge of China's Great Revolution was under way at the time and Yang's early participation in revolutionary activities was greatly influenced by his fourth elder brother Yang Yangong, one of founders of the executive committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Sichuan.
Yang joined the Chinese Communist Youth League in 1925 and became a member of the CPC in early 1926. Thereafter, Yang devoted his lifetime to the liberation of the Chinese people and the splendid cause of communism.
Yang entered Shanghai University, an institution under Party leadership, in the spring of 1926 and actively participated in planning the first and second armed uprisings of Shanghai workers.
He entered Moscow's Sun Yat-sen University in November that same year and thereafter systematically studied theories of Marxism and Leninism. He served as a class monitor and was a member of the Party subcommittee and deputy director of the university's propaganda department.
Yang and Li Bozhao were married in the Soviet Union in 1929, and the following year he commenced postgraduate studies at the Research Institute of Chinese Affairs. He also worked as a translator for the Chinese representative of the Workers International.
Yang returned to the motherland in 1931 at a time when the nation was beset with deep misery. He served as director of the Propaganda Department for the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and as secretary of both the Party and Youth League of the Shanghai Association of Trade Unions.
He worked diligently to reestablish trade unions and recruit Party members in areas subject to the vicious control of the Kuomintang.
After the September 18th Incident in 1931 that marked the beginning of Japan's occupation of northeast China, Yang served as director of the Propaganda Department of the Jiangsu CPC Provincial Committee at the time, and later held a similar position for the CPC Central Committee. His work centered on directing workers movements and the anti-Japanese campaign for national salvation.
Yang was assigned to the central revolutionary base area in Ruijin, east China's Jiangxi Province, in January 1933. He served as director of the Propaganda Department of the Central Bureau of the Central Soviet Area and helped edit the Party's institutional publications, including the "Red China" and "Struggle."
Yang was assigned in February to a position as head of the Red China News Service, the predecessor to the Xinhua News Agency, and in March became vice-president of the Marxism Communist University founded by the Central Bureau for the Soviet Area.
He was assigned to the Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army in June and worked as director of the Political Department for the First Front Army. Soon thereafter he was sent to the front-lines and served under General Zhu De and Political Commissar Zhou Enlai.
Yang became political commissar of the Third Army Corps of the Red Army in January 1934, and later in the month was elected an alternate member of the CPC Central Committee during the Fifth Plenary Session of the Sixth CPC Central Committee. He was also elected a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Soviet Republic.
He joined Third Army Corps Commander Peng Dehuai in winning a series of decisive victories during the fifth anti-encirclement campaign in the Central Soviet Area. He attached great importance to coordination between units, properly handled various contradictions and united his troops to fulfill all battle tasks.
Yang and Peng Dehuai led the Third Army Corps on the monumental Long March from Jiangxi Province beginning on October 17, 1934. The Third Army's success in breaking through four enemy blockade lines won high praise from the Revolutionary Military Commission under the CPC Central Committee.
In January 1935, Yang attended the enlarged meeting of the CPC Central Committee's Political Bureau in the city of Zunyi in southwestern Guizhou Province. He criticized Bo Gu and Li De for serious command mistakes and expressed his full support for Mao Zedong's correct view concerning the matter.
Yang and Peng exhibited great flexibility in carrying out Mao's military strategies and tactics while leading the Third Army Corps in many crucial battles. The Corps launched a successful offensive to capture the Loushan Pass and joined the First Army Corps of the Red Army in retaking Zunyi in the first significant victory won by the First Front Army of the Red Army during the Long March.
The two commanders carefully assessed the rapidly changing battle situation and offered several suggestions which were adopted by Mao and the Central Military Commission. Yang and Peng performed meritoriously to support China's revolution during a critical period.
The Headquarters of the Third Army Corps of the Red Army came under heavy bombardment by the enemy planes on April 25, and Yang continued to direct battle operations in spite of sustaining serious wounds.
On June 13, Yang together with Peng Dehuai led their troops across Jiajin Mountain to protect the flanks of main forces of the Central Red Army.
Yang attended the Lianghekou Meeting in late June after the First and Fourth Red Armies succeeded in joining their forces. He voiced resolute support for the CPC Central Committee's strategy to move northward to fight Japanese Aggressors.
The Third Corps of the Red Army was reorganized into the Third Army before long and Yang became the political commissar for the Army.
He was named deputy director of the General Political Department of the Red Army in August. He supported Mao's Right Route Army and waged a resolute struggle against the splittist activities of Zhang Guotao.
At critical moment, Yang and Ye Jianying devised an ingenious plan to help Mao Zedong, other senior leaders and the bulk of Central Red Army forces escape danger.
He attended an urgent enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in a Russian border area on September 12, and firmly backed the decision concerning errors committed by Zhang Guotao, which was made at the meeting.
He later served as deputy director of the Political Department of the Shaanxi-Gansu Detachment of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army which formed on the basis of the old First and Third Army Corps of the Red Army and the Column of the Military Commission.
On October 19, Yang joined Mao Zedong, who was serving as political commissar at the time, and Commander Peng Dehuai in leading the detachment to the Shaanxi-Gansu Revolutionary Base Area in Wuqi Town, and the Central Red Army forces successfully completed the Long March.
In November 1935, Yang became deputy director of the General Political Department of the Northwest Revolutionary Military Commission. He participated in battle for Zhiluo, a campaign which established the foundation for the Northwest Supreme Headquarters of the Party Central Committee.
Yang engaged in united front work for the Northeast Army of the Kuomintang and became director of the General Political Department of the Anti-Japanese Vanguard Army of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army in February 1936. He crossed the Yellow River eastward with Mao Zedong and was sent to join the battle in north China's Shanxi Province.
Yang was named director of the Political Department of the Anti-Japanese Red Army University in June. The Red Army joined its three major forces triumphantly in October and Yang was appointed to a position as director of the Political Deptment of the General Headquarters of the Front Committee of the CPC of the Red Army. A short time later he participated in the Battle of Shanchengbao.
He became deputy director of the General Political Department of the Central Revolutionary Military Commission in December, and led the united front work for the Northwest Army of the Kuomintang.
Yang analyzed battle conditions and the status of the Red Army forces and, in April 1937, won Party Central Committee support for his suggestion for strengthening political and ideological education in the Red Army.
Thereafter, he held leading posts concerning political work in the army, and established a solid foundation for related political and ideological development.
In May 1937, Yang headed a Red Army delegation to the CPC National Congress, or Soviet Area Congress, and was elected a member of the presidium.
Yang served as deputy secretary of the North China Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in August 1937 after the outbreak of War Against Japanese Aggression. He went to the front line in north China to help North China Bureau Secretary Liu Shaoqi establish base areas behind enemy lines.
He supervised Party work in Shandong and Hebei provinces, as well as in Rehe and Inner Mongolia, in addition to directly administrating Party and Youth League activities for the Shanxi Work Committee and Ximenghui, a mass patriotic organization. He also launched the bureau's Party school which trained large numbers of officials for the War Against Japanese Aggression.
Yang journeyed to Yan'an in September 1938 to attend the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth CPC Central Committee. Two months later Lie Shaoqi was transferred to central China and Yang was appointed secretary of the North China Bureau and assumed full responsibility for leading anti-Japanese efforts behind enemy lines in north China.
He contributed greatly to mobilizing people in north China to participate in anti-Japanese movements and to Party, army and political power building in base areas. He joined generals Zhu De and Peng Dehuai at the headquarters of the Eight Route Army in launching a counter offensive against Yan Xishan, a Shanxi warlord who staged the "December Incident", and in defeating the first Anti-Communist upsurge initiated by die-hard Kuomintang (KMT) forces. Yang also participated in organizing 100 regiments of the Eighth Route Army for a major battle against Japanese troops.
Yang returned to Yan'an in early 1941 to assist Wang Jiaxiang with administration of the North China Committee of the CPC Central Committee. In August, 1941, the Party's North China Bureau was reorganized and Yang served as secretary of the bureau and president of the Party school. Later he participated in the Rectification Movement. He attended the Party's Seventh National Congress in April 1945 and became secretary-general of the Central Military Commission in August. Yang handled the commission's daily work and served as deputy director of the Central Foreign Affairs Work Group. He later served as director of the General Office for the CPC Central Committee.
Yang served concurrently as commander of the Central Guard Unit and organized the retreat of central organizations from Yan'an in early 1947 following the Civil War launched by the Kuomintang.
In April the same year, he served as deputy secretary of the Rear Area Committee of the CPC Central Committee. And together with Committee Secretary Ye Jianying, Yang led most staffers with the Party Central Committee and Central Military Commission to move to Linxian Prefecture in northwestern Shaanxi Province.
Yang worked long hours assisting Ye Jianying prepare timely information from across the country for the Party Central Committee and in turn conveyed the CPC Central Committee's instructions to liberated areas.
He kept the Party Central Committee and Mao Zedong, who was constantly on the move in north China, fully informed of the overall situation, including the situation of the enemy forces, thus providing an important guarantee for Mao Zedong and the Party Central Committee in directing the War of Liberation of the whole of China.
In mid-April 1948, Yang led members of organizations under the Party Central Committee and the Rear Area Committee on retreat to Xibaipo, Pingshan County, Hebei Province.
Following the merge of the CPC Central Committee, the CPC Central Working Committee and the Central Rear Committee, Yang served as deputy secretary-general of the CPC Central Committee, director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, secretary-general of the Central Military Commission, Commander of the Central Guard Unit, and secretary of the Party Committee of the Departments under the CPC Central Committee.
Yang assisted Zhou Enlai with the daily affairs of the Party Central Committee and the Central Military Commission. Party leaders, including Mao Zedong praised Yang's diligence and high efficiency in his work.
The Second Plenary Session of the Seventh CPC Central Committee was held in Xibaipo in March 1949. The meeting ended with a decision to move the CPC Central departments and Headquarters of the People's Liberation Army to Beiping in late March and a moving committee was set up. Yang was put in charge of this committee.
At the end of March, with the organizing and arranging by Yang and others, the CPC Central departments safely moved to Beiping.
In September of the same year, Yang participated in making preparations for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a grand ceremony marking the founding of New China.
Yang continued to serve as deputy secretary-general of the CPC Central Committee and director of the committee's General Office following the founding of the People's Republic of China. He held concurrent posts as secretary-general of the Central Military Commission and Party Secretary for organizations directly under the CPC Central Committee. Yang continued to exhibit his indefatigable work ethic by toiling day and night to ensure the timely completion of tasks assigned by top leaders such as Mao Zedong.
Yang raised the efficiency of Party and government organizations by restructuring and improving the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and establishing operational procedures which helped guarantee smooth implementation of the Party's line, principles and policies as well as fulfillment of various tasks. He thus made monumental contributions.
After the Korean War erupted in June 1950, Yang worked directly under the leadership of Mao Zedong to prepare for the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-1953).
In 1954, Yang joined in the major struggle against Gao Gang and Rao Shoushi who plotted to split the Party and usurp both the supreme Party leadership and state power.
During the period of more than 10 years when he served as secretary of the Party Committee of the organizations directly under the CPC Central Committee, he extended great effort to protect officials during numerous political movements under the principle of seeking truth from facts. His efforts, at least to some extent, helped to reduce the negative impact excesses of political struggles had on the daily work of Party institutions.
Yang was elected as a member of the Party Central Committee during the Eighth National Congress of the Communist Party of China in September 1956. Later, he was elected as an alternate member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee during the first plenary session of the Eighth Central Committee.
The state of the national economy reached a critical juncture in February 1962 and Yang was appointed head of a group in an effort to streamline central organizations. He assisted state leaders, including Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yun and Deng Xiaoping, in implementing a series of economic readjustment measures, and particularly in cutting the urban population by 20 million.
The group successfully completed its tasks in June 1963, thus creating important conditions for the work to strive for a fundamental change for the better of the country's financial and economic situation.
Between winter of 1964 and spring of 1965, Yang led a group of officials from the General Office of the CPC Central Committee to northwest China's Shaanxi Province to carry out the "Four Clean-ups" Movement (a nationwide movement to "cleaning things up in the fields of politics, economy, organization and ideology") in a People's Commune.
They conducted an extensive investigation and order practical and realistic punishment for inefficient local officials, rare and commendable accomplishment at a time when "Left" deviations prevailed.
In May 1966, Yang was framed as a member of a so-called "Anti-Party Clique." He suffered greatly during the tumultuous "Cultural Revolution" and was cruelly persecuted and imprisoned for 12 years by Lin Biao and Jiang Qing and their like.
Yet, Yang continued to study Marxism, Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought while in prison. Yang showed great concern for the future and fate of the Party and socialist construction, and remained steadfastly loyal to the cause of the Party and people.
The CPC Central Committee announced Yang's complete rehabilitation after the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CPC. From December 1978 to the end of 1980, Yang served as the second secretary of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee, deputy governor of Guangdong Province, first secretary of Guangzhou City's CPC Committee and director of the city's revolutionary committee. He served concurrently as first political commissar and first secretary of the CPC Committee for the Guangdong Military Area Command.
Yang adhered to the ideological line of emancipating minds and seeking truth from facts as set forth during the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee. He exhibited great farsightedness and boldness to make substantial progress in implementing the reform and opening-up policies and removing mental barriers involving the "two whatevers." (This refers to the nation of "whatever policy decisions the late Chairman Mao Zedong made must be firmly upheld and whatever instructions he gave must be followed unswervingly.)
Yang conscientiously carried out policies concerning cadres, resolved a great number of complicated questions left over by history, and worked diligently to create social and political environments which enabled people to remain in step with the times and enjoy peace of mind.
He firmly carried out a series of strategic decisions and policies formulated by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Deng Xiaoping at the core, including the decision to shift the work focus to socialist modernizations. He also participated in implementing special policies in Guangdong and the trial program to develop special economic zones (SEZs).
Yang emphasized that Guangdong province should "take the lead" and do a good job in carrying out the reform and opening-up. He stressed that SEZs should persist in hard working, and helped enable Guangdong to become a pioneering demonstration zone, thus offering valuable experiences for the implementation of China's reform and opening-up policies.
As SEZs in Guangdong and Fujian provinces exhibited exuberant vitality, Yang actively participated in making important decisions concerning the development and opening of the coastal open economic zones. He actively promoted the formation of China's all-dimension open up to the outside world with the opening drive expanding gradually from coastal to inland areas. Yang was an active practitioner of Deng Xiaoping Theory.
He became a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Fifth Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in July 1979. He was elected to membership in the CPC Central Committee at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in September. Yang was elected vice chairman in September 1980 and served concurrently as secretary general of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People's Congress (NPC).
Yang became a member of the Standing Committee of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and was concurrently secretary general in July 1981. He also served as the executive vice chairman and concurrently secretary general of the CMC in September 1982.
Yang assisted CMC Chairman Deng Xiaoping in handling daily affairs involving the commission. He joined members of the CMC Standing Committee in firmly implementing CPC Central Committee decisions, as well as Deng's theories and strategies for military modernization in the new historical period. The committee members acted in strict accordance with CPC Central Committee and CMC decisions and successfully reestablished order from the disarray which affected the armed forces following the interference of Lin Biao and the "Gang of Four" during the Cultural Revolution.
The members enaged in in-depth discussions and studies of a series of major issues concerning the military modernization under new historical conditions. They stressed that People's Liberation Army (PLA) should downsize and improve quality, following the road of building a modern military force with Chinese characteristics.
Yang joined other CMC leaders in actively merging and reorganizing Military Area Commands, establishing a Group Army, restructuring military colleges, founding the National Defense University, modernizing China's naval and air forces, developing strategic missile army units, and improving both militia and military reserve units. He also joined them in putting stress on major projects and in building well-trained elite troops, thus enabling the PLA to achieve major progress in army building and strengthening national defense.
Yang resolutely implemented Deng Xiaoping's strategic policy decisions on reorganizing and streamlining the military.
In June 1982, he presided over a CMC forum and introduced specific principles and reform measures concerning the size of the military, streamlining command organizations, reducing and merging redundant units and developing capable leadership.
Implementation of the Programs of Restructuring, Streamlining and Reorganization of the PLA worked out by the forum helped solve problems related to overstaffing. On the basis of cutting the size of the army on several occasions, the CMC, with Yang taking charge of its daily work, in 1985 successfully implemented the major policy decision put forward by Deng Xiaoping to downsize the army by one million active personnel, which was a glorious, but nonetheless arduous task.
Yang also resolutely implemented Deng Xiaoping's theory concerning the Party's absolute leadership over the army, and engaged in unswerving efforts to enhance the Party's political construction and organizational development in the army.
He stressed that the army, while taking into account its own reality, must implement the CPC Central Committee's decision on the consolidation of the Party and directed related consolidation work within the army. Yang's extensive efforts greatly enhanced the Party's cohesion.
Yang took charge of formulating the CMC's Decision on Political Work in the Army During the New Period, which clearly stipulated related guidelines and major tasks. The decision pointed out that "political work is the lifeblood of the army. Lifeblood in this sense refers to 'guaranteeing' and 'serving' the construction of a modern army and the fulfillment of various related tasks."
Yang was elected as a member of the CPC Central Committee at the 12th and 13th National Congresses of the CPC held in 1982 and 1987 respectively.
He was elected a member of the CPC Central Committee's Political Bureau at the first sessions of both the 12th and 13th CPC Central Committees, and continued to serve as executive vice chairman and secretary-general of the CMC.
Yang, an important member of the second generation of the central leading collective with Deng Xiaoping at the core, actively participated in various Party and state policy decisions, thus making major contributions to China's socialist modernization drive, economic reform and opening up in the new area.
He was appointed vice chairman of the Central Military Commission at the First Session of the 6th NPC in 1983 and the First Session of the 7th NPC in 1988.
At the 5th Plenary Session of 13th CPC Central Committee in November 1989, Yang expressed total agreement with Deng Xiaoping's view of the need to uphold and support the third generation of central leading collective with Jiang Zemin at the core.
He played an important role in the smooth transition from the second generation of central leading collective with Deng Xiaoping at the core to the third generation of central leading collective.
Yang was appointed first vice chairman of the CMC during the 5th session and thereafter assisted CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin with the commission's daily affairs.
He conscientiously implemented the guidelines of the directives of the CPC Central Committee and the ideas of the CMC chairman, and worked diligently to organize and arrange the work of various sectors of the army. His efforts helped maintain the continuity and stability of the army building.
Yang firmly carried out the CPC Central Committee's policies of peaceful reunification and "one Country, two systems". He was actively engaged in the work concerning Taiwan Authorities and people and promoted the cause of China's Reunification by various means.
He established extensive ties with patriotic public figures in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and overseas, which helped unite and win support from them. At meetings with those figures, Yang often said that although the two sides of the Taiwan Straits have been separated for decades, reunification of the country is an inevitable trend and represents the will of all Chinese people. Taiwan's only option is to reunite with the mainland, and practicing "one Country, two systems" is the best way to settle the Taiwan Issue. He consistently called for the CPC and KMT to engage in negotiations on an equal footing to realize "one Country, two systems." He called on the Taiwan Authorities to comply with the aspirations of the people to end hostilities and remove obstacles in order to promote exchanges and economic cooperation, and enhance the development of the relations between the two sides. Yang's appeals had a major impact both at home and abroad.
Yang was elected president of the People's Republic of China during the first session of the 7th NPC in April 1988. He ignored fatigue and conducted in-depth fact-finding missions to factories, grass roots units, army units, construction sites and special economic zones. He listened intently to suggestions voiced by officials, common citizens and noted figures from various sectors concerning economic development and the process of reform and opening up. Yang also offered guidance for effective ways to solve problems. Yang and and other Party and State leaders handled the political turmoil between the Spring and Summer in 1989 and maintained China's independence, dignity, security and stability.
He paid close attention to developments and changes in the international situation, participated in formulating and readjusting China's foreign policies in the new period. He also undertook a heavy load of diplomatic activities, meeting with numerous foreign leaders and nongovernment figures visiting China.
Yang visited many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to promote China's independent foreign policy of peace, and expound the nation's monumental achievements in reform and opening to the outside world and in the socialist modernization drive.
He worked diligently to promote and strengthen understanding and friendship between the Chinese government and other governments throughout the world, as well as between Chinese citizens and people in other countries. He worked tirelessly to enhance China's international status and safeguard world peace and human progress. Yang thus won respect and trust of the international community.
Yang responded to Deng Xiaoping's call for abolishing lifelong terms for leading officials and retired from his posts as a member of the CPC Central Committee's Political Bureau, vice-chairman of the CMC and president of the People's Republic of China between October 1992 and March 1993.
Yang continued to pay close attention to China's socialist modernization drive and reunification efforts. He pinned great hopes on and was highly confident in China's becoming rich, strong, prosperous and flourishing, as well as the nation's eventual reunification.
Yang enjoyed high prestige and performed immortal feats leading up to the founding of new China and throughout socialist construction. He was deeply loved and respected by the Party, the army and people of all nationalities of China.
He was highly disciplined and helped maintain the unity of the Party. Yang Shangkun unswervingly followed the principle of serving the people with heart and soul and conscientiously worked to serve both the Party and the people.
He firmly followed the mass line, maintained close contacts with the masses of people and practiced a democratic work style. He was amicable and easy to approach. Yang was a good listener and always willing to listen to different opinions. He was sagacious, resolute and skilled at drawing on collective wisdom and absorbing useful ideas.
He was a strict self-disciplinarian and was in turn strict with his family. Yang practiced thrift, honestly performed his official duties and always maintained and upheld the Party's fine tradition and work style.
Yang was a generous individual who exhibited great care for other people and fellow cadres. He was a tireless teacher and highly skilled at giving systematic guidance. Yang Shangkun dedicated his life to the Party cause and his death was a great loss to the Party, the State and the people's army.
We should turn our grief into strength and emulate his lofty revolutionary spirit and morality by uniting closely around the CPC Central Committee with Jiang Zemin at the core, holding high the great banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory and striving to turn China into a modern, democratic, civilized and powerful socialist country.
Comrade Yang Shangkun will live in the hearts of the people forever. (xinhua)