Propaganda chief and Deng Xiaoping's bridge partner

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2012, 12:00am


The Communist Party's former propaganda chief died of an unspecified illness in Beijing yesterday morning at the age of 83, according to state media reports.

Ding Guangen was lauded by authorities as 'an excellent party member and a long-tested, loyal communist, as well as a prominent leader for the CPC's publicity and cause of ideology', according to an English report by Xinhua.

Well known for pairing up with the party's former paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, in their games of bridge, the poker-faced Ding (pictured) was generally regarded as an ideologically conservative official, largely for his tight control over the media during his decade-long rule of the party's Central Publicity Department from 1992.

It was reported that while then-premier Zhu Rongji paid a visit to CCTV in 1998 and stressed the importance of the media's supervisory role in reporting on the government, Ding refused to budge on his long-standing position of closely guiding public opinion.

A Jiangsu native, Ding had a chequered political career before retiring as the country's top propaganda official in 2002.

After serving in the nation's railway system for about 30 years, in 1985 Ding was named Railways Minister. However, in 1988 there was a serious train crash that killed 88 people and left more than 200 injured and he was forced to resign.

He was said to be the first senior official in the country to step down after accepting responsibility for such an incident.

Ding was sidelined for the next couple of years, being relegated to head of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, before being promoted to chief of the party's United Front Work Department in 1990. Here he managed relations with the nation's non-Communist Party elite, such as prominent academics and members of special interest groups.

Thanks largely to his good relationship with Deng, Ding was promoted to become a member of the party's all-powerful Politburo and also to the role of propaganda chief in late 1992, following the party's 14th National Congress.

Ding was said to be an official who was kind to his subordinates, and who spared no effort in helping advance their political careers.

At least four officials who served as Ding's secretary at one time or another saw their careers advance over the years - namely Zhang Yannong , the current president of the People's Daily; Yu Weiguo, the party secretary of Xiamen, Fujian province; Hu Yadong, the vice-railways minister; and Tian Jin, the deputy head of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.