Chen Yonggui

Chen Yonggui

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Chen Yonggui was a politician
Politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. Though he was an illiterate peasant, he became a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China
Politburo of the Communist Party of China
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China or Political bureau of the CPC Central Committee , formerly as Central Bureau before 1927, is a group of 24 people who oversee the Communist Party of China...

 and Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
The Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China is a high-ranking executive assistant to the Premier. There is a First-ranking Vice Premier , sometimes called Executive Vice Premier wrongly by the non-official media. It is an informal title and takes over duties of the...

 because of the leadership he provided in turning Dazhai into a model for socialist agriculture.

Early years


Chen Yonggui was born in 1915 as the son of a poor peasant, who moved to Dazhai when Yonggui was 6 years old, and later hanged himself. This situation forced Chen Yonggui to start working at a very young age to make a living, so he never received formal education.

In 1942, as fighting against communist guerrilla increased in Shanxi Province, where Xiyang County
Xiyang County
Xiyang County is a county of Shanxi, China. It is under the administration of Jinzhong city.-References:*...

 encompassing Dazhai is located, the Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese tightened their grip on local villages and Chen Yonggui was elected Dazhai representative in the puppet Rejuvenating Asia Society, but resigned and left the village after barely surviving a one-year detention in a concentration camp in 1943–1944. Because of this, he was briefly detained as a suspected collaborationist after Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

's defeat, but soon released.

He eagerly took part at the "land reform movement" against landlords and joined the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 in 1948.

The Dazhai period


In 1952 Chen Yonggui was appointed secretary of the CPC branch committee of Dazhai, succeeding Jia Jincai. He led a peasant movement to turn the harsh environment surrounding Dazhai into an environment favourable to agriculture. The plan was a success and later grain output increased steadily, passing from 237 kg per mu in 1952 to 774 kg per mu in 1962. This progress was brutally halted by a series of natural disasters in 1963, which destroyed 180 acres of arable land as well as some of the production brigade
Production brigade
A production brigade was formerly the basic accounting and farm production unit in the people's commune system. Production teams were largely disbanded during the agricultural reforms of 1982-85. In the administrative hierarchy, the team was the lowest level, the next higher levels being the...

's buildings. Despite this setback, the brigade refused any help from the state and completed rebuilding efforts in one year. All of this came to the attention of Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

, who declared that Dazhai was an example to be followed in the field of self-reliance, launching the directive: "Learn from Dazhai in agriculture
Learn from Dazhai in agriculture
The Learn from Dazhai in agriculture campaign was a campaign organised by Mao Zedong in the early 1960s. The campaign encouraged peasants from all over People's Republic of China to learn from the example of the farmers of Dazhai, Shanxi by practicing self-sacrifice and political...

". In December 1964, while attending the 3rd National People's Congress
3rd National People's Congress
The 3rd National People's Congress was in session from 1964 to 1975. It held only one plenary session in the ten years.The plenary session was held from December 21, 1964 to January 4, 1965...

, Chen Yonggui had a dinner with Mao Zedong himself.

When the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 began, Dazhai's model was emphasized even more. During a meeting with Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, Chen Yonggui was encouraged to create Dazhai's own Red Guard
Red Guards (China)
Red Guards were a mass movement of civilians, mostly students and other young people in the People's Republic of China , who were mobilized by Mao Zedong in 1966 and 1967, during the Cultural Revolution.-Origins:...

 organization, which was later established under the name "Jinzhong
Jinzhong
Jinzhong is a prefecture-level city with 3,249,425 inhabitants at the 2010 census in east central Shanxi province of the People's Republic of China.-Administrative divisions:...

 Field Army". He was appointed vice-chairman of the Shanxi Revolutionary Committee in 1967; in the same year, the Cultural Revolution Group
Cultural Revolution Group
The Cultural Revolution Group was formed in May 1966 as a replacement organisation to the Central Committee Secretariat and the "Five Man Group", and was initially directly responsible to the Standing Committee of the Politburo...

 approved his "five recommendations" for conducting the Cultural Revolution in rural areas, published in the CPC Central Committee Document No. 339. In 1969 he was elected member of the CPC Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is the highest authority within the Communist Party of China. Its approximately 350 members and alternates are selected once every five years by the National Party Congress....

, and a secretary of the CPC Shanxi Committee in 1971. He once again gained Mao Zedong's approval in 1972 by firmly opposing CPC Shanxi First Secretary Xie Zhenhua
Xie Zhenhua
Xie Zhenhua is Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.-Biography:Xie Zhenhua was born in Tianjin. He graduated from the of Tsinghua University with an Engineering Physics degree...

's request to downgrade the Dazhai production brigade to production team
Production team (China)
A production team was formerly the basic accounting and farm production unit in the people's commune system in People's Republic of China from 1958 to 1984....

.

CPC central leader


In 1973 he was elected a member of the CPC Politburo
Politburo of the Communist Party of China
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China or Political bureau of the CPC Central Committee , formerly as Central Bureau before 1927, is a group of 24 people who oversee the Communist Party of China...

 and transferred to Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

. He was concurrently secretary of the CPC Xiyang Committee and the CPC Jinzhong Committee. His post as Dazhai Party branch secretary was taken by 22-year-old Guo Fenglian.

In January 1975 Chen Yonggui was appointed a vice-premier of the State Council
Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
The Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China is a high-ranking executive assistant to the Premier. There is a First-ranking Vice Premier , sometimes called Executive Vice Premier wrongly by the non-official media. It is an informal title and takes over duties of the...

; in March he led a government delegation to Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

; in September he delivered the keynote speech to the First National Conference for Learning From Dazhai in Agriculture, chaired by fellow vice-premier and next paramount leader
Paramount leader
Paramount leader literally "the highest leader of the party and the state ", in modern Chinese political science, unofficially refers to the political leader of the People's Republic of China....

 Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

. He devoted 1/3 of his time to inspection tours, 1/3 to farm work in Dazhai, and 1/3 to work in Beijing; this program was approved by Mao Zedong. Being in charge of agricultural policy, he suggested that Gansu Province adopted the same method employed by Dazhai, but this didn't produce expected results.

Downfall and later life


Chen Yonggui was re-elected to the CPC Politburo in 1977 and vice-premier in 1978 (in the same year he visited Democratic Kampuchea
Democratic Kampuchea
The Khmer Rouge period refers to the rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Khmer Rouge Communist party over Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge renamed as Democratic Kampuchea....

). Despite this, his views were more and more at odds with Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

's rising authority: as Deng moved to consolidate his position, Chen Yonggui proposed to abolish private plots, calling them the "tail of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

". His refusal to approve private plots and carry out the "Seeking truths from facts" campaign (aimed at repudiating the Cultural Revolution) in Dazhai cost him to be removed from Party leadership in Jinzhong and Xiyang in 1979; he was dismissed from the State Council
State Council of the People's Republic of China
The State Council of the People's Republic of China , which is largely synonymous with the Central People's Government after 1954, is the chief administrative authority of the People's Republic of China. It is chaired by the Premier and includes the heads of each governmental department and agency...

 in 1980 in a government reshuffle (when Hua Guofeng lost the premiership
Premier of the People's Republic of China
The Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China , sometimes also referred to as the "Prime Minister" informally, is the Leader of the State Council of the People's Republic of China , who is the head of government and holds the highest-ranking of the Civil service of the...

), and was not reelected Central Committee member in 1982.

Chen Yonggui spent the rest of his life working as a farm advisor in the outskirts of Beijing. He died on 26 March 1986 aged 71 for a lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

.

Personal life


Chen Yonggui married Li Huni, daughter of a fellow poor peasant, in 1941; they gave life to Chen Mingzhu in 1943. Li Huni died prematurely in 1965, and Chen Yonggui remarried in 1966 with Ning Yuling. Their son, Chen Mingliang, was born in 1969.