Lin Biao (林彪; Wade-Giles: Lin Piao; 1908-1971?) was a Chinese Communist military and political leader, once known as Mao Zedong's comrade-in-arms and likely successor, but later discredited as a traitor.
A native of Hubei province, Lin joined the Socialist Youth League and matriculated at Whampoa 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 Whampoa in 1925 and by 1927 was a colonel.
After the KMT-CPC 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 guerilla commander and during the 1934 breakout he commanded the First Corps of the Red Army which fought a two-year running battle which culminated in the occupation of Yenan in December 1936 (See Long March). As commander of the 115th Division of the Communist 8th Route Army, Lin orchestrated the ambush at Pinghsingkuan in September 1937, which was one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese in WWII. Lin was seriously injured in 1938 and was given the post of commandant of the Communist Military Academy at Yenan. He spent the next three years (1939-1942) in Moscow.
With the resumption of Civil War after World War II, Lin was made Secretary of the Northeast China Bureau and commanded the Red Army forces that conquered the Manchurian provinces and then swept into North China. In achieving victory, he abandoned the cities and employed Mao's strategy of guerrilla warfare and winning peasant support in the countryside.
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, becoming one of the architects of the Cultural Revolution. He worked closely with Mao, creating a cult of personality for him. Lin compiled some of Chairman Mao's writings into handbook, the Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, which became known simply as "the Little Red Book."
After the purging of Liu Shaoqi, on April 1, 1969, at the CCP's Ninth Congress, Lin Biao emerged with as primary military power and second in ranking behind Mao Zedong in the party. Even the party constitution was later modified to put 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.
Lin disappeared in 1971. The circumstances surrounding Lin's purported death remain clouded. Some historians believe Mao had become uncomfortable with Lin's power and had planned to purge him. As a result, Lin and his advisors planned a pre-emptive coup. The official Communist Party explanation was that Lin, with the help of his son Lin Liguo, he had planned to assassinate Mao sometime between September 8 and 10, 1971. Lin's own daughter was reported to have exposed her father's plot. As his plans failed, Lin and his family (his wife Ye Qun and his sons) and several personal aides attempted to escape to the Soviet Union. Their plane crashed in Mongolia on September 13, 1971. Whether this is true, or Lin was killed through other means remains unknown.
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 the purported coup was witheld for nearly a year. When it did break, the people felt betrayed by Mao's "best student."