China's former vice president, Rong Yiren, a textile magnate who joined with the country's communists and helped launch Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, earning the nickname "red capitalist," has died, the government said Thursday. He was 89.
Rong died Wednesday in Beijing of illness, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It did not give any other details.
Rong, whose family textile and flour businesses employed 80,000 people, stayed in China after the 1949 revolution and handed over his fortune to the communists.
He was persecuted during the ultra-leftist 1966-76 Cultural Revolution but was rehabilitated in 1978 when Deng invited him to help launch reforms. Deng called Rong his "red capitalist."
Rong created CITIC, the government's China International Trust and Investment Corp., which became China's most respected international business organization, with holdings abroad in companies that included Hong Kong banks and Australian aluminum smelters.
He later served as a vice premier and was named vice president in 1993, becoming China's highest-ranking non-communist official. He held that post until 1998.
His death was reported Thursday evening on the national state television news, an unusual honor for a non-communist figure.
The government declared Rong a "great fighter for patriotism and communism" and a "superb state leader," Xinhua said.
In 2000, Forbes magazine ranked Rong as China's richest businessman, with a family fortune estimated at $1.9 billion in CITIC shares.
His son, Larry Yung, also known as Rong Zhijian, is chairman of CITIC's Hong Kong arm, Citic Pacific Ltd., with a fortune estimated at $1 billion.
No information about other survivors was released, and funeral plans were not announced.