Zhao Ziyang (17 October 1919 – 17 January 2005) was a high-ranking statesman in China. He was the third Premier of the People's Republic of China from 1980 to 1987, Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1981 to 1982, and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1987 to 1989. He lost power in connection with the reformative Neoauthoritarianism current and his support of 1989 Tiananmen Square student protesters.
As a senior government official, Zhao was critical of Maoist policies and instrumental in implementing free-market reforms, first in Sichuan and subsequently nationwide. He emerged on the national scene due to support from Deng Xiaoping after the Cultural Revolution. An advocate of the privatization of state-owned enterprises, the separation of the party and the state, and general market economic reforms, he sought measures to streamline China's bureaucracy and fight corruption, issues that challenged the party's legitimacy in the 1980s. Many of these views were shared by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Hu Yaobang.
His economic reform policies and sympathies with student demonstrators during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 placed him at odds with some members of the party leadership, including former Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission Chen Yun, former president Li Xiannian and former Premier of the State Council Li Peng. Zhao also began to lose favour with former Chairman of the Central Military Commission Deng Xiaoping. In the aftermath of the events, Zhao was purged politically and effectively placed under house arrest for the next 15 years.
He died from a stroke in Beijing later in January 2005. Because of his political fall from grace, he was not given the funeral rites generally accorded to senior Chinese officials. His unofficial autobiography was published in English and in Chinese in 2009, but the details of his life remain censored in the People's Republic of China.