Yao Yilin, 77, a former vice premier and a conservative economist who helped launch China's market-oriented reforms. Yao disappeared from view for months in 1991, reportedly because of an illness, and had not been seen in public since he retired from his last official post in 1992. Yao was associated with China's periods of economic retrenchment since it embarked on market-oriented economic reforms in 1979. He was a prominent figure in 1989, when reforms were rolled back after a military crackdown on the democracy movement. Yao worked closely with Premier Li Peng, whom he had mentored and who also is an economic conservative, but reportedly was forced to resign in 1992 for being too narrow-minded. Born in 1917 in the poor eastern China province of Anhui, Yao joined the Communist Party in 1935 and was a student activist at Beijing's Qinghua University, the nation's top technical school. During the 1937-1945 war against Japan, he served as a regional party official. After the Communist takeover in 1949, Yao worked in the trade ministry and was named minister of commerce in 1960. He was purged during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, but recovered his former post in 1978. The following year, he was named vice premier. On Dec. 11 in Beijing.