BEIJING (AP) -- Former Chinese leader Hua Guofeng died Wednesday, state-run media reported. Hua was communist founder Mao Zedong's successor but was pushed aside by Deng Xiaoping as a prelude to reforms that launched an economic boom.

State broadcaster CCTV said Hua died of an unspecified illness.

He took power after Mao's death in September 1976 but saw his powers erode until Deng took control two years later. Hua was forced out as Communist Party chairman in 1981 and slipped into obscurity.

In contrast to the harsh purges of earlier eras, when fallen leaders were banished to remote villages, Hua remained part of the inner circle as a member of the party's Central Committee.

Old Commie Croaks