35 years ago today, China’s first premier Zhou Enlai (周恩来) passed away from cancer at the age of 77. A skillful negotiator and able diplomat, Zhou quickly rose through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party and became crucial in its rise to power. During the Cultural Revolution, Zhou’s efforts at containing the Red Guards earned him great popularity among the people. This led to a protracted factional struggle between leftist radicals led by the Gang of Four (which included Mao’s wife Jiang Qing), and the moderate camp led by Zhou. After he was diagnosed with cancer, Zhou began to delegate his responsibilities to his protege Deng Xiaoping (邓小平), who would later on become the paramount leader of the People’s Republic. Zhou’s death, some eight months before Mao, led to massive protests against the Gang of Four (who had by then gained control of most of the central government) when they banned all displays of mourning. This eventually sparked off the April 5 Tiananmen Incident of 1976 (not to be confused with the 1989 protests). While Zhou remains arguably the most popular politician among China’s first echelon of leadership, new biographies and reports have appeared in recent years, suggesting that he frequently caved in to Mao’s whims instead of mitigating them and protecting all those he could have.