Zhou Enlai (1898–1976) was a leading communist in China who served as premier from 1949 until his death. He also served as China's foreign minister from 1949 to 1958. Zhou was portrayed as a selfless hero to the Chinese people. He was noted for his charm. His many admirers imagined that Zhou had a moderating influence on party politics. However, historians who have examined the archival record say that Zhou rarely if ever challenged Mao Zedong at internal meetings.
During the Cultural Revolution, Sun Weishi, Zhou's adopted daughter, was kidnapped and tortured to death by the Red Guard. Zhou began to end China's isolation from the world when he invited an American table tennis team to tour China in 1971.
Biographer Gao Wenqian argues that Zhou generally obeyed Mao. At first, this was because he shared Mao's objectives. Later, it was because he feared for his life. Zhou's subservience did not save him in the end. Mao refused to allow Zhou to receive treatment for cancer, thus ensuring that Zhou died before Mao. Zhou died in January 1976, Mao in September.