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Wang in 1967
|Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China|
August 30, 1973 – October 6, 1976
Changchun, Jilin Province
August 3, 1992 (aged 56)|
Beijing, Beijing Municipality
|Political party||Communist Party of China|
Wang Hongwen (December, 1935 – August 3, 1992) was a Chinese labour activist and politician who spent most of his career in Shanghai. He was an important political figure during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). He was the youngest member of the far-left political clique called the "Gang of Four." During the Cultural Revolution, Wang rose from a member of the working class to become one of the foremost members of national leadership of the Communist Party of China.
At the pinnacle of his power he was the second Vice-Chairman of the CCP, and ranked third in the Communist Party's hierarchy. Following Mao's death in 1976, Wang was arrested and charged with "counterrevolutionary activity," then sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981.
Wang was born in a village in the outskirts of Changchun, Jilin province. In the early 1950s he took part in the Korean War. He joined the Communist Party of China in 1953. After the war, he was sent to Shanghai to work in Shanghai No. 17 Cotton Textile Mill as the head of its security guards regiment, where he met Zhang Chunqiao and became involved in a Red Guards group. He organized the Shanghai Commune in January 1967, and was catapulted to national prominence as a daring rebel leader.
At the 9th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Wang was elected a member of the Central Committee. Following the Lin Biao incident, Wang was put in charge of the investigation into the case in the Shanghai area, reporting directly to Mao. At the 10th National Congress of the CCP in 1973, Wang Hongwen was elevated to second ranking Vice Chairman in the Central Committee, and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, making him the third-highest-ranking member of the CCP, behind Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. All signs pointed to Wang being trained as Mao's successor.
Wang was rumored to be slated to become Premier after then-Premier Zhou Enlai's death in January 1976. However, Hua Guofeng, a more moderate figure, was chosen to succeed Zhou instead. Wang was an important player during and after the death of Mao, and served as the masters of ceremonies for his funeral service on national radio on September 18, 1976. He was arrested in what was essentially a coup planned by Hua and General Ye Jianying for his participation in the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution in October 1976. Wang was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981. He died of liver cancer in a Beijing hospital on August 3, 1992 at the age of 56.
Wang was one of the youngest members of the Politburo Standing Committee in the post-revolution Communist Party, having joined the body at a mere 37 years of age. In fact, he was the same age as some standing committee members who took office even after the turn of the century, such as Luo Gan (served on the PSC between 2002 and 2007), who was also born in 1935.