etcetera | Obituaries Electronic Telegraph
Saturday 28 December 1996
Issue 582

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Wang Shoudao

WANG SHOUDAO, who has died aged 89, was a veteran communist who rose to become Communications Minister of the People's Republic of China.

Wang began his revolutionary activities when still a teenager. As a military commissar he took part in the Long March, the 6,000-mile communist retreat from Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces, when Mao Tse-tung established himself as leader.

Wang was an orthodox Maoist, loyal to Mao even during the disastrous years of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. He had impeccable Maoist credentials: peasant origins, untiring youthful activism, Marxist study and dedicated service.

Wang Shoudao was born in Linyang, Hunan province, in 1907. As a boy he sold firewood and tended the family's only ox. Aged 12, he was adopted by a more prosperous uncle. After a brief apprenticeship to a maker of firecrackers, he attended a state agricultural school and joined a communist students' group.

In 1925, fearing arrest for revolutionary activities, Wang fled to the European enclave of Canton, where he joined the Chinese Communist Party and studied at the Peasant Movement Training Institute. By the end of 1926 he was organising unions in Chiyang, southern Hunan; a campaign against communists forced him to go into hiding. He spent five months reading Marxist theory.

Wang returned to Liuyang in 1927 to join a peasant movement which was confiscating and redistributing land. In 1929 he joined the committee of the newly established "soviet government" in southern Hunan.

During the communists' ill-fated attempt to capture central Chinese cities, Wang was assigned to Changsha and appointed chairman of the communist government. When the communists were driven from the city in 1930, Wang fled; his wife was executed.

After the Long March, he became director of the political department of the 15th Army Corps. "The political commissar is all-powerful in the policies of the army," he said. He was governor of Hunan from 1950 to 1952, and Vice-Minister and then Minister of Communications until 1964.

He last served, from 1982 to 1987, on the party's Central Advisory Committee, a body set up for influential elderly revolutionaries.

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