Zhao Ziyang, 68, the new general secretary of China's 46 million-member Communist Party, is respected as a pragmatist who gets things done.

He earned his reputation as the party's top man in central Sichuan Province from 1975 to 1980, initiating agricultural reforms in the country's most populous province that have since become the model for the nation and raising the living standards of many peasants.

During the Sichuan reforms, peasants coined a saying: "If you want to eat, look for Zhao Ziyang."

Under the patronage of senior leader Deng Xiaoping, Zhao was appointed premier in 1980 and he quickly developed a reputation for competence. He shed the traditional Chinese communist leader's image by donning a western suit and tie, traveled widely throughout the world, and earned a reputation as an urbane and self-assured but tough negotiator.

In 1984, he visited the United States for nine days, meeting President Reagan at the White House.

After the ouster in January of then party chief Hu Yaobang, Zhao was named acting party general secretary. During a subsequent ideological drive against western political ideas, Zhao worked quietly to prevent it from extending into economics.

Born in 1919, the son of a wealthy landlord in central China's Henan Province, Zhao joined the Communist Youth League in 1932 and at the age of 19 joined the party in 1938. He was too young to take part in the Red Army's legendary 1934-35 Long March.

Like Deng, Zhao was attacked by the Red Guards and purged during the chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976. He reemerged as party secretary in Inner Mongolia in 1971.

Zhao has four sons and a daughter. Three of his children have studied in the United States.