Former vice-premier and veteran diplomat Wu Xueqian died from an unspecified illness yesterday morning in Beijing at the age of 86, according to Xinhua.
Wu, who was a deputy to former premier Li Peng at the height of the Tiananmen Square unrest in 1989, did not share the legacy of the hardline premier responsible for the crackdown on the student pro- democracy movement.
Wu, a Shanghai native, was born on December 19, 1921, and worked as an underground student activist there after joining the Communist Party in May 1939.
After the People's Republic was established in 1949, he spent much of his career working to overcome the country's long isolation from much of the world.
Wu worked in the party's external liaison department and was responsible for reaching out to the Soviet Union and other communist countries in Eastern Europe in the late 1950s.
He was appointed first vice-minister of foreign affairs in April 1982 and elevated to foreign minister seven months later.
The serious-looking official may be remembered as one of the least colourful diplomats from the mainland, but he worked hard and was appointed a vice-premier in April 1988, with continued responsibilities on the diplomatic front.
Like many others in the central government's top echelon, Wu spent his retirement in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top government advisory body, which has no authority.
He was a vice-chairman of the body, but after stepping down from the vice-premier's post in March 1993, he was rarely seen in public.