Liu Shaoqi (1898—1969) was president of China from 1959 until 1968. He played a key role in ending the Great Leap Forward, a policy which led to a nationwide famine. Mao Zedong retaliated by having Liu tortured to death during the Cultural Revolution.
In 1959, as part of the moderate reaction within the party leadership against the excesses of the Great Leap Forward which had been championed by Mao Zedong, Liu replaced Mao head of state, although Mao remained chairman of the CCP (an honorary position), as well as head of the military commission, the most powerful position in China at that time.
Mao distrusted Liu, suspecting him of bureaucratism and bourgeois tendencies (although the evidence is that Liu was an orthodox communist), and he brought about the Cultural Revolution in part to remove Liu and his supporters (including Deng Xiaoping) from power. Liu was dismissed from office, humiliated by Red Guards and imprisoned in wretched conditions which contributed directly to his death.