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Conservative Chinese Leader Yao Yilin Dies

December 12, 1994

BEIJING (AP) _ Yao Yilin, a former vice premier and a conservative economist who helped launch China’s market-oriented reforms, has died at 77.

Yao died Sunday, the official Xinhua News Agency announced today. The dispatch gave no cause of death. Yao disappeared from view for months in 1991, reportedly due to an illness, and has not been seen in public since he retired from his last official post in 1992.

The official obituary described Yao as ″an outstanding proletarian revolutionary and eminent economic planner″ and said ″Yao’s death is a great loss to the (Communist) party and the country.″

His death was the lead item on the nationally televised evening news.

The death of a member of the older generation of leaders serves as another reminder of the mortality of China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, 90. Although formally retired, Deng wields considerable influence, and there have been persistent rumors of his failing health.

Yao, a conservative economic planner, was associated with China’s periods of economic retrenchment since it embarked on market-oriented economic reforms in 1979. He was a prominent figure in 1989, when reforms were rolled back following the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.

Yao worked closely with Premier Li Peng, whom he had mentored and who also is an economic conservative, but reportedly was forced to resign in 1992 for being too narrow-minded.

Born in 1917 in the poor east China province of Anhui, Yao joined the Communist Party in 1935 and was a student activist at Beijing’s Qinghua University, the nation’s top technical school. During the 1937-1945 war against Japan, he served as a regional party official.

After the Communist takeover in 1949, Yao worked in the trade ministry and was named minister of commerce in 1960. He was purged during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, but recovered his former post in 1978. The following year, he was named vice premier.

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