November 24, 2010
Huang Hua, Former Chinese Foreign Minister, Dies
By DAVID BARBOZA
SHANGHAI - Huang Hua, a Communist Party revolutionary who served as
China's foreign minister during the 1970s and early 1980s and helped
China restore diplomatic relations with the United States, died early
Wednesday in Beijing. He was 97.
His daughter-in-law, Dede Nickerson, said he died in a Beijing hospital
of complications from lung and kidney failure. Xinhua, China's official
news agency, also announced his death late Wednesday.
A loyal deputy to the former prime minister Zhou Enlai, Mr. Huang was an
amiable statesman at a time when China was moving to end decades of
international isolation. Backed by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, those
decisions set the stage for this country's spectacular rise during the
past three decades.
As a senior diplomat with excellent English, Mr. Huang was known for his
toothy smile and conservative brand of diplomacy. Henry Kissinger called
him "one of the ablest public servants I have ever met" and a "trusted
He met Kissinger during the secret trip he made to Beijing in 1971 as
President Nixon's national security adviser; he negotiated with a series
of American presidents, including Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and
Ronald Reagan; and he served as China's first ambassador to Canada.
In late 1971, Mr. Huang was named China's first permanent representative
to the United Nations, taking up the post shortly after Beijing gained a
United Nations seat.
As foreign minister, he held talks that led to the signing of a peace
and friendship treaty with Japan and he negotiated with Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher of Britain regarding the 1997 handover of Hong Kong.
And when Beijing ordered him to be tough, he was. After the United
States and China resumed diplomatic relations in 1979, he accused the
United States of backtracking on its promises by continuing to sell
weapons to Taiwan, which China continues to regard as a renegade
But Mr. Huang is perhaps best known for a secret trip he undertook as a
college student in Beijing. In 1936, with China ravaged by civil war and
Japanese aggression, he agreed to serve as an interpreter for the
American journalist Edgar Snow, who had arranged to travel to a remote
part of north China to meet a band of Communist rebels, including Mao
With Mr. Huang's help, Mr. Snow wrote a series of newspaper articles
that created a sensation and led to the publication of "Red Star over
China," a best-seller and one of the first detailed accounts of Mao and
the Chinese Communists.
Mr. Snow was later accused of writing Communist propaganda. He strongly
denied any bias but eventually moved to Switzerland, where he died in
1972. Mr. Huang visited him shortly before his death.
Huang Hua was born in January 1913 as Wang Rumei, the son of a teacher
in north China's Hebei Province. After he joined the Communist Party, he
changed his name to Huang Hua.
In the 1930s, Huang was a student leader at Beijing's Yanjing
University, which was run by American missionaries. Like many college
students at the time, he demonstrated against Japanese military action
in China. He even helped form the December 9 movement, named for the
date of one of the anti-Japanese protests in Beijing.
After being detained by the police following a demonstration, he hid in
the home of Mr. Snow and his wife, Helen Foster Snow, who was also a
journalist. Mr. Snow was then teaching at Yanjing, and Mr. Huang was his
In 1936, Mr. Snow arranged to travel to the Soviet region of north
China, which was then under blockade by the Nationalist Chinese
government. Mr. Huang, who had already secretly joined the Communist
Party, agreed to serve as an interpreter.
In north China's Shaanxi Province, Mr. Huang was one of several
interpreters Mr. Snow depended on when he interviewed top Communist
rebels. He translated into Chinese notes that Mr. Snow took and then
shared them with Mao to determine if they were accurate, Mr. Huang later
wrote in his memoir.
After Mr. Snow returned to Beijing, Mr. Huang stayed in the region to
aid the revolution. He later helped other Western journalists visiting
the rebel areas.
In the 1940s, he was a special assistant to Zhu De, one of the
Communists' top military strategists, and married a woman named He
Liliang, who moved to the area with her father, who was an adviser to
He also served as an interpreter for the United States Army Observer
Group that traveled to Yan'an to meet with Mao and other rebel leaders
after the American-backed Chinese Nationalists formed an alliance with
the Communists to fight Japan.
After the Communists took power in 1949, Mr. Huang joined the foreign
ministry and negotiated the closing of the United States mission in
China with John Leighton Stuart, the United States ambassador to China
and former dean of Yanjing University.
Mr. Huang participated in talks to end the Korean War and the Geneva
Conference in 1954. He served as China's ambassador to Ghana and Egypt,
until 1969, when he returned during the Cultural Revolution because of
the social and political upheaval Mao created.
Upon his return, he and his wife were forced to work as peasants on
farms in two different regions of the country. But in 1970, when Edgar
Snow was preparing to travel to Beijing to meet with Mao, Mr. Huang was
called back to Beijing to serve as an interpreter and accompany Mr. Snow
on his travels around the country.
It was during that trip that Mao hinted that he was willing to open
talks with the United States and invited President Nixon to visit China.
Following Mr. Snow's visit, Mr. Huang was named ambassador to Canada and
then permanent representative to the United Nations. He held secret
talks with Dr. Kissinger in New York City around the time of Nixon's
In 1976, after Mao's death, the Chinese foreign minister Qiao Guanhua
was dismissed because of accusations he had close ties to the notorious
Gang of Four that ruled in Mao's name during his final years. Mr. Huang
was named foreign minister and then vice prime minister. He retired in
He is survived by his wife, He Liliang, three children and several