BEIJING -- Li Xiannian, 83, a former president of China who was one of the last remaining veterans of the Long March and a leading hard-liner who fought economic liberalization, died June 21 at a hospital here.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency said top leaders, including Premier Li Peng and party general secretary Jiang Zemin, rushed to the hospital to be at his bedside. The nationally televised evening news devoted more than 10 minutes of its half-hour show to Li. It opened with a minute of martial music.
The cause of his death was not disclosed.
Li was a principal opponent of efforts by senior leader Deng Xiaoping to push China toward more openness and market reform. His death is a severe blow to the hard-line camp.
He is the first to die from a group of octogenarians and revolutionary veterans nicknamed "the eight old men" who collectively were believed to control China. Others include Deng, who turns 88 in August.
Li was among several conservative octogenarians who feared that a decade of economic reforms had undermined loyalty to the party. When massive pro-democracy demonstrations seemed briefly to threaten Communist Party power in 1989, he demanded a harsh response. He later said the demonstrations showed the error of rapid reform and urged greater Marxist-Leninist indoctrination of youth.
Hong Kong news reports recently said that Li was politicking behind the scenes to win key party appointments for the sons and daughters of party veterans, regarded as the most reliable heirs.
While other government officials began wearing Western dress in the mid-1980s, Li maintained the image of a plain-living revolutionary to the end, wearing severe, high-collared Mao suits, cloth shoes and dark glasses.
He was president of China from 1983 to 1988. Although the post is largely ceremonial, his party stature and personal connections ensured his broad influence in decision-making. From 1982 until 1987, he was one of five members of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, the highest organ of power.
At his death, he held the post of chairman of the People's Political Consultative Conference, a government advisory body, but he had not attended its meetings for more than a year. He also was a member of the party's Central Advisory Commission, an influential body of party veterans.
Li was believed to have been among the first to call for normalization talks with the Soviet Union, which began in 1982. In January of that year, he said China wanted to avert war and would never strike first.
He traveled widely and met frequently with heads of state. He visited the United States and Canada in 1985 and France, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium in 1987. He never lost his crusty, plain-speaking manner. Shortly before Britain's Queen Elizabeth II paid a state visit to China in 1986, Li made a speech recalling the "gunboat diplomacy" that brought China to its knees before foreign military might in the last century.
Official biographies said Li was born the son of poor peasants in the central province of Hubei. He led a peasant uprising against local landlords and joined the Communist Party in 1927 and was a veteran of the Long March that Mao Tse-tung led across China to escape rival Nationalist troops in 1934-1935. Li was wounded twice during the march and reportedly carried a bullet in one leg for the rest of his life.
After the communist victory in 1949, Li organized postwar reconstruction in his home province as governor, military commander and political commissar of Hubei.
He was finance minister from 1954 to 1978, and helped rebuild the economy after the 1960-62 famine that resulted from Mao's Great Leap Forward, a thrust for instant growth and communism. He criticized the Great Leap as unattainable. Li was promoted rather than fired after the remarks.
In 1967, with the Cultural Revolution at full tilt and millions of young Red Guards on the rampage, Li trod on even more dangerous ground by suggesting that the "Little Red Book" -- a sacrosanct collection of Mao's sayings -- should not be taken too literally.
Outraged Red Guards threatened him, and he was briefly fired as minister. But the self-educated economist, whose first job was as a carpenter, bounced back under the patronage of Premier Chou En-lai.
After Mao's death in 1976, Li ran the economy until late 1978, when Deng ordered a drastic readjustment away from the Soviet economic model of central planning, heavy industry and inflexible commune agriculture.
One of Li's few political stumbles came in 1976 when he called on the party to "deepen the struggle against Deng Xiaoping," then an outcast but soon to emerge as China's paramount leader. In a major self-criticism in 1980, Li reportedly accepted the blame for the deficit-plagued economy.
JOSEPH 'SUNNY' WILLIAMS.
Washington Post Employee
Joseph G. "Sunny" Williams, 65, a retired pressroom production manager with The Washington Post, died June 20 at Greater Southeast Community Hospital after surgery for a circulatory ailment. He lived in Washington.
He worked for The Post for 34 years before retiring in 1977 with a heart ailment.
Mr. Williams, who was born in West Virginia, came here at an early age. He was a Cardozo High School graduate and World War II Army veteran.
His wife, Dorothy Mae Williams, died in 1985. Survivors include two brothers, Thomas, of Washington, and Richard, of Florida; and a sister, Mary Connelly of Washington.
ROGER R. CORE.
D.C. Police Officer
Roger Rufus Core, 75, who served on the D.C. police force for 26 years before retiring in 1973, died of cancer June 18 at the home of a sister in Wilmington, Del. He lived in Washington.
Mr. Core began his D.C. police career in 1947. He spent 18 years on cruiser patrol duty out of the 2nd Precinct. In 1966, he was transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, where he spent the rest of his career.
At the U.S. attorney's office, he screened civilian complaints, directing civilians to the proper offices and advising them on possible courses of action. He also advised beginning and inexperienced prosecutors on police criminal procedures and acted as a liaison between the U.S. attorney's office and the D.C. police.
Mr. Core, who came to the Washington area in the early 1940s, was a native of North Carolina. He was an Army veteran of World War II.
His wife, Forstina Core, and a daughter, Diane Franklin, both died in 1989. Survivors include two sisters, Marjorie McNeill of Wilmington and Pauline Goodson of Durham, N.C.
BURTON E. SMITH SR.
Burton E. Smith Sr., 73, a pressman who worked for the Government Printing Office for 32 years before retiring in 1973, died June 13 at Holy Cross Hospital after a stroke.
Mr. Smith, who lived in Wheaton, was born in Washington and graduated from Western High School. He was an Army medic in Europe during World War II and received a Bronze Star.
He was a charter member, elder and trustee of Lutheran Church of St. Andrew in Wheaton.
Survivors include his wife of 45 years, Bertha M. Smith of Wheaton; two children, Burton Jr., of Gaithersburg, and Linda Chapman of Eldersburg, Md.; two brothers, Edgar William Smith Jr. of Wheaton and Robert Jesse Smith of Coconut Creek, Fla.; a sister, Catherine Vogel of Arlington; and two grandchildren.
JOHN C. PHILLIPS.
Naval Ordnance Engineer
John C. Phillips, 81, a naval ordnance engineer who retired in 1970 as the civilian director of the Armament Division of the Surface Warfare Directorate of the Naval Ordnance Systems Command, died June 18 at Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville. He had Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Phillips was born in Lincoln, Neb., and graduated from the University of Nebraska. He moved to the Washington area and began working for the Navy Department in 1935.
He had been a member of Ryland United Methodist Church in Washington and Vienna Presbyterian Church. He also had done volunteer work with the Boy Scouts. He was a 50-year member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
In retirement, Mr. Phillips had been a docent at the Smithsonian Institution Air and Space Museum.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, V. Lorraine Phillips of Mitchellville; two children, Charles T. Phillips of Arlington and Martha L. Phillips-Patrick of North Bethesda; and a granddaughter.
Naomi Althea Neal Dodson, 84, a retired area teacher and lifelong area resident, died of cardiac arrest June 19 at Providence Hospital in Glenarden.
Mrs. Dodson, a Washington native, was a graduate of Armstrong High School and Miner Normal School. She taught at Crouch Elementary School in Alexandria in 1936, then at Phillips-Wormley Elementary in Washington in 1938 and 1939. She taught preschool and first-grade classes at the Garden of Children, a private school in Washington, from 1946 to 1948.
She was a member of Epiphany Catholic Church in Washington. She was named Georgetown mother of the year by the Georgetowner newspaper in 1978.
Her husband, Dr. Joseph N. Dodson, died in 1979. Survivors include three daughters, Barbara Walker of Washington, Jean Jackson of Capitol Heights and Jo Anne Birch of Bowie; a brother, Alfred Tim Neal, and a sister, Josephine Washington, both of Washington; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
HARRIET E. PATTERSON.
Harriet E. Patterson, 57, administrative assistant to businessman and D.C. Boxing Commission Chairman Jeffrey Gildenhorn, died of cardiovascular disease June 19 at her home in Rockville.
She had worked for Gildenhorn, operator of Circle Liquor Store, American City Diner and the Fishery and Rossini's restaurants, for 14 years. She also assisted him in his work as boxing commissioner.
Ms. Patterson was a native of New York who moved to the Washington area in 1966. Earlier she worked in sales jobs, at the Snooty Fox boutique and at Monte's Gifts.
She leaves no immediate survivors.
ELINOR G. BURTON.
Lifelong Area Resident
Elinor Garlem Burton, 67, a lifelong area resident who was a member of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Potomac, died of an aneurysm June 20 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.
Mrs. Burton, who lived in Bethesda, was a native of Washington. She was a graduate of Roosevelt High School.
A golfer, she was a member of Bethesda Country Club.
Survivors include her husband, Warren E., of Bethesda; a son, Craig R., of Potomac; a daughter, Donna Burton Alvarez of Raleigh, N.C.; two brothers, Ernest Garlem of Round Hill, Va., and Evert Garlem of Annandale; and four grandchildren.