Lin Biao

Lin Biao

name = Lin Biao

imagesize = 100px
caption =
order = 2nd Executive Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
term_start = 1965
term_end = 1975
predecessor = Chen Yun
successor = Deng Xiaoping
birth_date = December 5, 1907
birth_place = Qingpu, Shanghai
death_date = September 13 1971
death_place = Öndörkhaan, Mongolia
premier = Zhou Enlai
party = Communist Party of China
spouse =
religion =
alma_mater = |

Lin Biao (zh-cpw|c=林彪|p=Lín Biāo|w=Lin Piao), born as Lin Yurong (zh-c|c=林育蓉; December 5, 1907ndash ?September 13 1971) was a Chinese Communist military leader who was instrumental in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China, and was the General who led the People's Liberation Army into Beijing in 1949. He abstained from becoming a major player in politics until he rose to prominence during the Cultural Revolution, climbing as high as second-in-charge and Mao Zedong's designated and constitutional successor and comrade-in-arms.

He died in a plane crash in September 1971 in Mongolia after what appeared to be a failed "coup" to oust Mao. After his death, he was officially condemned as a traitor, and is still recognized as one of the two "major Counter-revolutionary parties" during the Cultural Revolutionndash the other being Jiang Qingndash for which he is assigned a large portion of blame. His military ability, however, is generally commended.


The son of a small landlord and a native of Huanggang, Hubei province, Lin was born Lin Yurong. He joined the Socialist Youth League (1925) and matriculated at Whampoa Military Academy when he was 18. While at Whampoa he became the protégé of both Zhou Enlai and the Soviet General Vasily Blyukher. Less than a year later, he was ordered to participate in the Northern Expedition, rising from deputy platoon leader to battalion commander in the National Revolutionary Army within a few months. Lin graduated from Whampoa in 1925 and by 1927 was a colonel.

After the KMT-CCP split, Lin escaped to the remote Communist base areas and joined Mao Zedong and Zhu De in Jiangxi in 1928. Lin proved to be a brilliant guerrilla commander and during the 1934 breakout he commanded the First Corps of the Red Army, which fought a two-year running battle with the Kuomintang, which culminated in the occupation of Yan'an in December 1936.

Lin and Peng Dehuai were generally reckoned to be the Red Army's best battlefield commanders. They do not seem to have been rivals during the Long March. Both of them had supported Mao's rise to "de facto" leadership at Zunyi in January 1935. According to Harrison E. Salisbury's "The Long March", by May 1935 Lin Biao was dissatisfied with Mao's strategy. He says of Mao's circlings to evade the armies of Chiang Kai-shek: "the campaign had begun to look like one of Walt Disney's early cartoons in which Mickey Mouse again and again escaped the clutches of the huge, stupid cat." [Harrison Salisbury "The Long March", page 188] According to Salisbury, Lin Biao in May 1934 tried to persuade Mao to turn over active command to Peng Dehuai.

"Lin Biao did not present the bluff, lusty face of Peng Dehuai. He was ten years younger, rather slight, oval-faced, dark, handsome. Peng talked with his men. Lin kept his distance. To many he seemed shy and reserved. There are no stories reflecting warmth and affection for his men. His fellow Red Army commanders respected Lin, but when he spoke it was all business...

"The contrast between Mao's top field commanders could hardly have been more sharp, but on the Long March they worked well together, Lin specializing in feints, masked strategy, surprises, ambushes, flank attacks, pounces from the rear, and stratagems. Peng met the enemy head-on in frontal assaults and fought with such fury that again and again he wiped them out. Peng did not believe a battle well fought unless he managed to replenish--and more than replenish--any losses by seizure of enemy guns and converting prisoners of war to new and loyal recruits to the Red Army." [Harrison Salisbury, "The Long March", pp. 191-192]

Edgar Snow in "Red Star Over China" focuses more on the role of Peng than Lin, evidently having had long conversations with, and devoting two whole chapters to, Peng (more than any individual apart from Mao). But he says of Lin:

"With Mao Zedong, Lin Biao shared the distinction of being one of the few Red commanders never wounded. Engaged on the front in more than a hundred battles, in field command for more than 10 years, exposed to every hardship that his men have known, with a reward of $100,000 on his head, he miraculously remained unhurt and in good health.

"In 1932, Lin Biao was given command of the 1st Red Army Corps, which then numbered about 20,000 rifles. It became the most dreaded section of the Red Army. Chiefly due to Lin's extraordinary talent as a tactician, it destroyed, defeated or outmanoeuvered every Government force sent against it and was never broken in battle...

"Like many able Red commanders, Lin has never been outside China, speaks and reads no language but Chinese. Before the age of 30, however, he has already won recognition beyond Red circles. His articles in the Chinese Reds' military magazines... have been republished, studied and criticised in Nanking military journals, and also in Japan and Soviet Russia. [Edgar Snow, "Red Star Over China", Victor Gollancz 1937, pages 109-110.Page 135 in the 1972 Penguin edition, which has a few revisions.]

"Red Star Over China" also has an interesting indication that Lin and Mao were close personally. "Between acts at the Anti-Japanese Theatre, there was a general demand for a duet by Mao Zedong and Lin Biao, the twenty-eight year old president of the Red Academy, and formerly a famed young cadet on Chiang Kai-shek's staff. Lin blushed like a schoolboy, and got them out of the 'command performance' by a graceful speech, calling on the women Communists for a song instead." [Snow, "Red Star Over China", p. 84]

A different view is taken by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in "", (Knopf, 2005), which covers the Mao-Lin relationship in depth:

"Lin lauded Mao to the skies in public, although he felt no true devotion to Mao, and at home he would often make disparaging and even disdainful remarks about him, some of which entered his diary. It was out of pure ambition that Lin stood by Mao and boosted himndash the ambition to be Mao's No. 2 and successor. He told his wife that he wanted to be 'Engels to Marx, Stalin to Lenin, and Chiang Kai-shek to Sun Yat-sen.'" [Chang and Halliday, "Mao: The Untold Story", p. 504]

According to Chang and Halliday, Lin remained valuable to Mao because, like the Chairman, he continued to put personal power above the interests of the country. In contrast, Peng was purged with Lin's help after challenging Mao over the famine at Lu Shan conference in August 1959.

Second Sino-Japanese War (the War of Resistance Against Japan, 1937-1945)

As commander of the 115th Division of the Communist 8th Route Army, Lin orchestrated the ambush at Pingxingguan in September 1937, which was one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese in the early period of the Second Sino-Japanese War (which began before World War II, though it merged into it). After the Battle of Pingxingguan, the Chinese troops captured many of the personal items that belonged to Imperial Japanese Army personnel. Among them is a cloak and a katana which was favored by Lin. He tried the cloak on and took the katana by his side, jumped onto a horse and went for a ride. He was then spotted alone by one of the sharpshooters from Fu Zuoyi's troops, who later became the mayor of Beijing after surrendering the city of Beijing to the Communists. The soldier was surprised to see a Japanese officer riding a horse in the desolated hills all by himself. He took an aim at Lin Biao in the head and severely injured him. Lin was then given the post of commandant of the Military Academy at Yan'an in 1938. He spent the next three years (1939–1942) in Moscow. After returning to Yan'an, Lin was involved in troop training and indoctrination assignments.

Chinese Civil War

With the resumption of Civil War after World War II, Lin was made Secretary of the Northeast Bureau of the Communist Party and commanded the Red Army forces that conquered the Manchurian provinces and then swept into North China. Mao and other communist leaders intended to take over the whole Northeast China as their base, but with the retreating of Red Army of Soviet Union it's clear that they had to fight for it. For sake of bargaining with the Nationalists (Kuo Min Tang) in the peace negotiation, Mao ordered Lin to assemble the key armies to defend the key cities, which was against the previous strategy of Red Army of China. Lin suffered a major defeat in Si Ping, and retreated before receiving clear orders from Mao. Lin suggested seriously that the Red Army should change its strategy. In achieving victory, he abandoned the cities and employed Mao's strategy of guerrilla warfare and winning peasant support in the countryside.

Within a year he entrapped the core of Chiang Kai-shek's American-armed and American-trained armies, capturing or killing a total of thirty-six generals. Then came the 'Great 3 Battle'. Lin directed the Liao Shen Battle, eliminating 450 000 opposition soldiers. Following victory in Manchuria, Lin encircled Chiang's main forces in northern China, known as the Ping Jin (Beijing-Tianjin) Battle. The Communists took over Tianjin by force, and ruined the city. Finally in Peking (Beijing) General Fu Zuo Yi and his army of 400,000 men surrendered to him without a battle. The Ping Jin Battle saw Lin eliminate a total of approximately 520,000 opposition soldiers. [Edgar Snow, "Red Star Over China", 1972 Penguin edition p. 548]

Lin went on for the liberation of the whole country. His army, now numbering almost a million soldiers, swept across China from the most north area, Northeast, to the most southern area, island of Hainan.

During this period, several separate Liberation Armies fought on different fronts, including Liu Bo Cheng and Deng Xiaoping's achievements in Central China, which were important to his subsequent power. Leading the 2nd Group, they set off the Huai Hai Battle with Chen Yi and Su Yu leading the 3rd Group, eliminating a total of 550 000 opposition soldiers. Lin Biao led one of the 3 main army groups of Liberation Army, and was regarded as the most brilliant general together with Liu Bo Cheng, and the 4th Group was regarded as the best group of the four.


Lin Biao's exact role in the 1950s is unclear. It seems he was frequently ill, and so had less of a role than his achievements might have entitled him to.

In his autobiography, Dr. Li Zhisui, one of then Mao's personal physicians, writes that Lin was mentally unbalanced rather than suffering from any chronic physical illness. Li's account of Lin's condition is quite a bit different from the official Chinese version, both before and after Lin's fall.

Although Snow writes that Lin led Chinese forces in Korea, this is incorrect. Lin and the rest of the Politburo initially opposed China's entry into the Korean War. [ Lin declined to lead forces in Korea, citing his ill health. Chen Jian, "China's Road to the Korean War", Goncharov, Lewis and Xue's "Uncertain Partners", Shen Zhihua, "Mao Zedong, Sidalin, yu Chaoxian Zhanzheng"] In early October 1950, Peng Dehuai was named commander of the Chinese forces bound for Korea, and Lin went to the Soviet Union for medical treatment. Lin flew to the Soviet Union with Zhou Enlai and participated in negotiations with Stalin concerning Soviet support for China's intervention, suggesting that Mao still trusted Lin despite his opposition to joining the war.

Due to periods of ill health and physical rehabilitation in the USSR, Lin was slow in his rise to power. In 1958 he was named to the Politburo Standing Committee. In 1959, after the Lushan Conference, Peng Dehuai was removed from his position as Minister of Defence and replaced by Lin Biao. As Defence Minister, Lin's policies differed from that of his predecessor. "Lin Biao's reforms aimed at 'de-Russification'. 'Professional-officer-cast' mentality was fought, titles and insignia of rank were abolished, special officer privileges ended, the Yenan type of soldier-peasant-worker combination was restored, and the Thought of Mao Tse-tung superseded all other ideological texts..." [Edgar Snow, "Red Star Over China" biographical notes in the 1972 Penguin edition, pp.]

In 1965, an article on revolution in developing countries, entitled "Long Live the Victory of the People's War!", was published in Lin's name. The article likened the 'emerging forces' of the poor in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the 'rural areas of the world', while the affluent countries of the West were likened to the 'cities of the world'. Eventually the 'cities' would be encircled by revolutions in the 'rural areas', following the Thought of Mao Tse-tung. Lin made no promise that China would fight other people's wars, however. They were advised to depend mainly on 'self-reliance'. Lin worked closely with Mao, creating a cult of personality for him. Lin compiled some of Chairman Mao's writings into a handbook, the "Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong", which became known simply as "the Little Red Book."

Lin Biao's military reforms and the success of the Sino-Indian War (1962) impressed Mao. A propaganda campaign called "learn from the People's Liberation Army" followed. In 1966, this campaign widened into the Cultural Revolution.

After the purging of Liu Shaoqi during the Cultural Revolution, on April 1, 1969, at the CCP's Ninth Congress, Lin Biao emerged as primary military power and second in ranking behind Mao Zedong in the party. Even the party constitution was modified to name Lin as Mao's special successor.

As the Cultural Revolution spun out of control, the People's Liberation Army, under Lin's command, effectively took over the country from the party.

Despite Lin's apparent interest in politics and increasing amount of political power during the Cultural Revolution, in private Lin expressed very little interest in Mao's policies and current political trends of the movement. In fact, some sources suggest that Lin was aloof and extremely introverted in private, leaving important policy and family duties to his wife, Ye Qun. Concomitantly, Lin also seemed plagued by psychological problems that incapacitated his abilities to administer in his position as Mao's second-in-command and so-called "close comrade in arms." [Adrian Luna, "Bringing the Inside Out: Health, Personality, Politics, and the Tragedy of Lin Biao"]

Attempted coup and downfall

The circumstances surrounding Lin's death remain unclear. Lin disappeared in 1971, the standard claim being that he died after attempting a "coup". He became China's second-in-charge on April 1, 1969, and advocated the restoration of the position of State President, which had previously been held by Liu Shaoqi until his removal from the position. The alleged purpose of the restoration was to ensure an orderly transition of power in the event of Mao's death. On August 23, 1970, the CCP held the second plenum of its Ninth Congress in Lushan, where Lin would speak for restoration of the position of President along with his supporter Chen Boda.

Some historians believe Mao had become uncomfortable with Lin's power and had planned to purge him and Lin's son Lin Liguo planned a pre-emptive coup. [cite book |last=Macfarquhar |first=Roderick |coauthors=Michael Schoenhals |title=Mao's Last Revolution |publisher=Belnap Press of Harvard University Press |year=2006 |pages=333-336] The Chinese government explanation was that Lin, with the help of his son Liguo, had planned to assassinate Mao sometime between September 8 and 10, 1971. According to the memoir of Dr. Li Zhisui, one of then Mao's personal physicians, Lin's own daughter, Lin Liheng (Doudou), inadvertently exposed her father's plot. Doudou had become estranged from her mother Ye Qun and incorrectly believed that her mother was plotting against her father.

Plane crash

Supposedly after the discovery of the planned coup, Lin and his family (his wife Ye Qun and his son) and several personal aides attempted to flee to the Soviet Union. It is said they were chased to the airport by armed PLA officers and guards. According to the PRC account of Lin's death, their prearranged Hawker Siddeley Trident plane did not take aboard enough fuel before taking off, and as a result, the plane crashed near Öndörkhaan in Mongolia on September 13, 1971 after running out of fuel, and all on board were killed. Interestingly, the official Mongolian report on the crash investigation points out that the plane had plenty of fuel at the time of the crash. The investigators concluded that the plane crashed because of pilot error. The corpses were buried in a grave not far from the site of the crash. However, the Soviets reportedly sent a KGB investigative team, which recovered some of the remains for subsequent identification.

It has been reported that when Zhou Enlai asked Mao Zedong whether air force fighters should be sent to chase Lin's plane, Mao replied with an ancient Chinese proverb: “天要下雨,娘要嫁人,由他去吧” ("Some things cannot be changed, just as it has to rain and young girls have to marry. And so, let it be; let him go.") Li Zhisui writes that there was a feeling of relief in the Chinese government when word came from Mongolia that there were no survivors. Zhou Enlai reportedly said, "死得好, 死得好" ("It is better that he's dead")Fact|date=February 2007. On the other hand, a biography of Zhou by Han Suyin claims that, on hearing that Lin was on board an aircraft leaving China, Zhou in fact ordered the grounding of all Chinese aircraft.

According to a retired Chinese army's enlisted personnel who guarded the Shanhaiguan AirbaseFact|date=January 2008, the Trident actually struck a fuel tank carrier truck parked near the runway. That may account for the plane's crashFact|date=February 2008. The impact had torn part of the fuel tank of the Trident's wings, and while flying at the Mongolian airspace, the leaking fuel had reached the side engines, triggering the loss of control.


One view is that Lin opposed the rapprochement with the USA, which Zhou Enlai was organizing with Mao's approval. This was contrary to Lin's strategy of 'People's War'. Lin, unlike Mao, did not have a history of making compromises and retreats when it suited him.

There was also claims that Lin was secretly negotiating with the Kuomintang on Taiwan to restore the KMT government in China in return for a high position in the new government. These claims were never formally confirmed nor denied by either the Communist government nor the Nationalist government on Taiwan.Fact|date=February 2007

Most of the high military command was purged within a few weeks of Lin's disappearance. The National Day celebrations on October 1, 1971 were cancelled. The news of Lin Biao's plot and disappearance was withheld from the general public for nearly a year. When it did break, the people felt betrayed by Mao's "best pupil."fact|date=March 2008

In the years after Lin's death, Jiang Qing, Mao's third wife and a former political ally of Lin's, started the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign, aimed at using Lin's scarred image to attack Zhou Enlai. Like many major proponents of the Cultural Revolution, Lin's image was manipulated after the movement; many negative aspects of the Cultural Revolution were blamed on Lin and after October 1976 blamed on Mao's supporters, the so-called Gang of Four. Lin was never politically rehabilitated. In recent years Lin's photo appeared in many books especially ones on history, to show the Chinese are changing their old attitude towards the politician. Lin is regarded as one of the best military strategists in China. A portrait of him is shown at the Chinese Military Museum in Beijing (from 2007), included in a display of the "Ten Marshals": a group considered founders of China's armed forces.


*"Study Chairman Mao's writings, follow his teachings, act according to his instructions, and be a good soldier of his." - Foreword of "The Little Red Book".
*"Sailing the sea needs a helmsman; making a revolution needs Mao Zedong thought."
*"Comrade Mao Zedong is the greatest Marxist and Leninist of our time. Comrade Mao Zedong ingeniously, creatively, and completely inherited, defended and developed Marxism and Leninism, and upgraded Marxism and Leninism to a brand-new stage."

See also

* List of officers of the People's Liberation Army


External links

* [ The Lin Biao Reference Archive]
* [ Lin Biao Biography] From Spartacus Educational
* [ Distorting History: Lessons From The Lin Biao Incident] article by Qiu Jin author of “The Culture of Power: The Lin Biao Incident in the Cultural Revolution,” Stanford University Press (June 1999), ISBN-10: 0804735298
* [ "Bringing the Inside Out: Health, Personality, Politics, and the Tragedy of Lin Biao"] , by Adrian Luna, VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller e. K. (January 2008), ISBN-10: 383643587X

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  • Lin Biao — im Jahre 1955 Lín Biāo (chinesisch 林彪) oder Lin Piao, Geburtsname Lin Yurong (Chinesisch: 林 育 容), (* 5. Dezember 1907 in Hubei; † 13. September 1971 in Öndörchaan, Mongolei) war ein wichtiger chinesischer Politiker anseiten Mao Zedongs …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lin Biao — Lin Biao, ou Lin Piao, (林彪) était un militaire et homme politique chinois né le 5 décembre 1907 dans la ville de Wuhan. Il est mort le 13 septembre 1971 dans des circonstances troubles, accusé de complot contre Mao Zedong. Lin Biao …   Wikipédia en Français

  • LIN BIAO — [LIN PIAO] (1907 1971) Né au Hubei dans un milieu de petits propriétaires terriens, Lin Biao s’intéresse très tôt aux mouvements radicaux de l’intelligentsia. Au sortir de l’école secondaire, il devient membre de la Ligue de la jeunesse… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Lin Biao — /lin byow / 1907 71, Chinese marshal and Communist leader: defense minister 1959 71; leader of abortive coup 1971. * * * or Lin Piao born Dec. 5, 1907, Huanggang, Hubei province, China died Sept. 13, 1971?, Mongolia? Chinese military leader and… …   Universalium

  • Lin Biao — Lin Biao,   Lin Piao, chinesischer General und Politiker, * Huangkang (Provinz Hubei) 5. 12. 1907, ✝ 13. 9. 1971; unterstützte 1928 34 Mao Zedong beim Aufbau der »Chinesischen Sowjetrepublik« und verteidigte sie als Befehlshaber des 1. Armeekorps …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Lin Biao — Este es un nombre chino; el apellido es Lin. Lin Biao. Lin Biao (chino: 林彪, pinyin: Lín Biāo, Wade Giles: Lin Piao) (*Wuhan, Hubei, China, 5 de diciembre de 1907 †13 de septiembre de 1971) …   Wikipedia Español

  • Lin Biao — (1907–1971)    Lin Biao was a leading communist military commander during the Chinese Revolution, and a key figure in the country’s leadership from 1959 until his death. Born in Hubei province, Lin was above all a military man, attending the… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Lin Biao — (Lin Piao) ► (1908 71) Político y militar chino. Se afilió al Partido Comunista chino en 1924. Participó en la creación del Ejército Rojo y se unió a Mao Zedong (1929) para crear la República soviética china de Jiang Xi. Fue ministro de Defensa… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Lin Biao — /lin byow / 1907 71, Chinese marshal and Communist leader: defense minister 1959 71; leader of abortive coup 1971. * * * [ lin byou] (also Lin Piao) (1908 71), Chinese communist statesman and general. Having been nominated to become Mao s… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lin Biao — /lɪn ˈbiaʊ/ (say lin beeow) noun c. 1907–71, Chinese general and politician who played a leading role in the Cultural Revolution; alleged to have died in a plane crash. Formerly, Lin Piao …   Australian English dictionary

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