The Defection and Death of Lin Biao
Despite his formal elevation at the Ninth Congress to the role of successor, Lin Biao had reason to be concerned about his position. Under the old, two-front succession system devised by the Chairman, Liu Shaoqi and other senior colleagues took charge when Mao was out of town or could not be bothered. The creation of the post of honorary chairman in the new constitution adopted at the CCP's Eighth Congress had been an implicit undertaking that one day Mao would retire permanently to the Second Front, handing over the reins of party leadership to Liu. Mao seemed to take a major step in that direction in 1959 when he vacated the state chairmanship in Liu's favor, and from that time on, every National Day, the People's Daily printed the pictures of the two chairmen side by side and equal in size. Mao had also identified Liu as his successor in conversation with Britain's Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, and that personal commitment had circulated throughout the party leadership. In the end, none of this saved Liu from disgrace at Mao's hand, but for a decade there had been in place an apparently working succession process suggesting that Mao would hand over power in his lifetime.
Under the constitution adopted at the CCP's Ninth Congress, however, there was no hint of a succession process. The provision for an honorary chairmanship was dropped, possibly as a result of the experiment in handing over power to Liu, and this change carried the implication that Mao intended to die in office. Nor was it clear from the deliberations and decisions of the congress whether there might be an interim step, such as occupying the position of head of state, which could be taken to confirm Lin Biao's formal role as heir apparent. Lin could have acted as if the two-front system were still in place by chairing Politburo meetings regularly in Mao's absence, but perhaps the fate of Liu Shaoqi as well as his health problems decided him to leave that chore in the safer hands of Zhou Enlai.1 Lin, indeed, could have been forgiven for wondering if the