Zhou En-lai (simplified Chinese: 周恩来; traditional Chinese: 周恩來; pinyin: Zhōu Ēnlái; Wade-Giles: Chou En-lai) (5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976) was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976. Zhou was instrumental in the Communist Party's rise to power, and subsequently in the development of the Chinese Communist economy and restructuring of Chinese society.
A skilled and able diplomat, Zhou served as the Chinese foreign minister from 1949 to 1958. Advocating peaceful coexistence with the West, he participated in the 1954 Geneva Conference and helped orchestrate Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China. Due to his expertise, Zhou was largely able to survive the purges of high-level Chinese Communist Party officials during the Cultural Revolution. His attempts at mitigating the Red Guard's damage and his efforts to protect others from their wrath made him immensely popular in the Revolution's later stages.
As Mao Zedong's health began to decline in 1971 and 1972, Zhou and the Gang of Four struggled internally over leadership of China. Zhou's health was also failing however, and he died eight months before Mao on 8 January 1976. The massive public outpouring of grief in Beijing turned to anger towards the Gang of Four, leading to the Tiananmen Incident. Deng Xiaoping, Zhou's ally and successor as Premier, was able to outmaneuver the Gang of Four politically and eventually take Mao's place as Paramount Leader.