Zhou Enlai’s death, in January 1976, sparked a massive public outpouring of grief. Mao failed to make an appearance at the funeral, leaving Deng to give the eulogy: Deng considered Zhou his “elder brother” from their time together in France. Deng had been running the country since his return from the countryside in 1973, brutally repressing a Muslim rebellion in Yunnan. But when the government refused to allow people to express their grief publicly over Zhou’s passing, protests followed.
The government quickly shifted blame to Deng for his passionate eulogy, giving Mao and Jiang Qing reason enough to oust him once again from power.