Zhou Enlai, whose likeness is expertly captured in a set of three commemorative coins issued in 1998, was the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), holding office from October 1949 until his death in Beijing in 1976. He was born in 1898 in Huai’an, Jiangsu province into a family of officials. Throughout his early life he was involved in politics, his financial security allowing him to dedicate himself to revolutionary activities.
Serving throughout Mao’s leadership and acting as his right hand man, he is remembered as a revolutionary, a shrewd politician, a skilled diplomatic negotiator specialising in foreign policy, and highly able administrator. He was one of the principal leaders of the Communist Party prior to the formation of the PRC in 1949 and was in charge of the Communist forces on the early stages of the Long March. This earned him legendary status as a Communist revolutionary and founder of the PRC.
During his premiership of the PRC his relationship with Mao; his role as implementer of Mao’s policies; and his skill and influence within the Communist Party enabled him to moderate and temper some of the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Despite holding an influential and powerful position during the Cultural Revolution, his legacy is a positive one due to the perception that he acted with damage limitation in mind. He is remembered as one of China’s most humane 20th Century leaders; as an embodiment of a dedicated and selfless leader; and is promoted by the government today as being representative of the values of the Communist Party.
The three-coin set issued in 1998 commemorates 100 years since his birth, and comprises two 1oz silver coins and one 1/2 oz gold coin. The reverse faces show three different images of Zhou Enlai: one of his face; one standing; and one on horseback, which combine to encapsulate his role as statesman, soldier, and revolutionary.