Chinese Navy's Political Work and Personnel

Srikanth Kondapalli, Research Fellow, IDSA


Chinese naval forces exhibited a strong sense of political consciousness throughout the 50 years of existence, thanks to its personnel recruitment policy, periodic political education, strategic debates within the navy and its relative importance vis-à-vis the other armed forces, and the overall political atmosphere in the country throughout these years. Despite being one of the highly professional groups within the armed forces, such a high level of political consciousness is remarkable in comparison with the armed forces of the world.

Several features of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) were moulded by an interaction between the navy's vision, political, military and logistic needs, organisation and personnel. Among these, the role of the interaction between the overall political image and naval personnel has been one of the most unique aspects that contributed for a distinct Chinese navy. Such interaction pervades various levels of ideology, organisational structure and dynamics of the PLAN.

Political Work

The political work system of the PLAN forms one of its three major aspects—the others include naval military work and logistics work. Though all the navies the world-over are politically indoctrinated in pursuance of their respective constitutions and political systems, the political work system of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is unique in more ways than one. Such exceptions can be seen in the navies of not only socialist systems such as the USSR and Vietnam, but also in the Taiwanese armed forces. However, unlike other navies of the world, the political work system of the Chinese navy is an explicit acknowledgement of the political principles to be strictly observed by the naval personnel. Indeed, the political work system of the navy was termed by the PLAN Officers' Manual as its "lifeline" [shengmingxian].1

The political work system of the navy is guided by the policies and programmes drawn by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its organs from time to time.2 Through this mechanism, the CCP's perspective permeated the entire ideological and organisational apparatus of the navy and the political choices in building various aspects of the navy. In its ideological aspects it is intended to study closely the naval personnel's thinking processes and conduct towards rules and regulations and enhance their political consciousness (sixiang juewu) and comprehension. The other aspect of the political work system, the organisational work, was originally intended, according to the PLAN Officers' Manual, to conform to the building of the navy according to the fundamental aims of the CCP and provide avenues for the working class to reach advanced levels.3 To elaborate, ideological building of the Chinese navy primarily includes two aspects: implementation of the CCP's directives and "political line" of the leadership; and is based on an interpretation of Marxism, Leninism and Mao Zedong thoughts. In the organisational sphere, political departments were set up at levels above regiment in the navy with cadres entrusted with the job of transmitting the Party's perspective and representation. For this purpose, Political Commissars were appointed at various levels of the decision-making processes of the navy's organisation along with the naval commanders. Reporting, conducting cadre meetings, investigation, study sessions, observing three democracies [in the sphere of politics, military and economic affairs], personal responsibility system [gangwei zerenzhidu] and so on formed part of the work system.4

The contents of the political work system of the PLAN were broadly divided into 13 aspects. They are:

(1) Efforts toward inculcating political education among the sailors [in CCP history and philosophy, policies, law, opposing individualism and promoting socialist consciousness].

(2) Administer party building activities and Party affairs [including strengthening political departments, political commissars, protecting party discipline and unity].

(3) Administer cadre work system in order to promote naval training, and mould the navy into a revolutionary, young and professional organisation.

(4) Enforce naval troops' discipline by observing the Three Rules and Eight Injunctions of the Chinese armed forces.

(5) Undertake naval troops' training exercises, carry out construction/ repair work, stress scientific research.

(6) Undertake wartime political work, abide by the CCP Central Committee, CMC, naval strategic policy.

(7) Further scientific cultural education, professional and technical standards and utilise naval troops' skill for civilian purposes (liang yong rencai).

(8) Purify [chunjie] and strengthen naval troops work. (important themes mentioned were maintaining safety of the CCP, defence work, secrets, guard against and smash counter-revolutionary elements and those disturbing socialist activity).

(9) Actively undertake culture, art and physical education among cadres.

(10) Develop friendly relations with the armed forces of the world according to the CCP policies, do research and investigation on the situation of the enemy forces.

(11) Develop Communist Youth units and political commissar work. Promote the three democracies among the naval troops.

(12) Improve common civil-military ties and socialist spiritual civilisation activities.

(13) Strengthen better political work mechanism, enhance political cadres' quality [suzhi].5

The following sketch depicts various aspects of the curriculum of the sailors as a part of the political work system.4

If this is broadly a general outline of the political work system of the Chinese navy in the past five decades, certain changes were made to this system as the navy, along with the other armed services of the country, entered into a "new era of army construction" [xin shiqi jundui jianshe].6 Along with massive reorganisation of major aspects of the armed forces after the 1978 reform was launched,7 the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the CCP passed a resolution, taking into consideration the overall changes in the armed forces, in January 1987, "Concerning the decision on political work during the new period of army construction." This resolution called the armed forces, including the navy, to pursue a comprehensive programme of "socialist modernisation" in the light of the reform measures and the changes that these reforms unleashed. During the New Democratic Revolution and in the subsequent period, the general policy of the political work system of the navy stressed "unite oneself, fight the enemy". In the "new period" this policy has been amended to "unceasingly" follow reform and perform according to the "new implications" and demands of the period.8 These amendments reflect the resolve of the leadership to curb certain negative aspects ushered into the armed forces by the launching of the reform programme. In this context, several incidents of indiscipline, which hardly occurred during the previous period, were reported among the ranks of the armed forces, including among naval troops. To recall, in the earlier periods of the PRC, it was the nationalist naval personnel who defected to the CCP. The political work system helped PLAN to mould these personnel into the socialist ethos. Though most of these personnel, after training at the naval academies and political schools have commanded PLAN vessels into distant areas, there were hardly any defections reported in this early period.9 However, in the recent period, the trend seems to be reversing, with defections reported from the mainland to the neighbouring countries. Two years before the CMC resolution on the political work, in 1985,10 six of the 40-tonne P-6 torpedo boats of the North China Sea Fleet, which set out from Qingdao for night-time navigational drills, reportedly mutinied. In the ensuing scuffle among the sailors and officers on board these vessels, six crew-members were killed whereas 11 surviving members returned to the mainland on March 28, 1985.11 Subsequently, other such incidents were reported. In August 1990, for instance, officers aboard guided missile ships attempted to cross over into South Korea. However, the leadership quickly thwarted this attempt and 40 sailors were reportedly executed. In November 1991, officers aboard a submarine attempted to defect to South Korea. However, following resistance, the rebels destroyed the submarine, killing 38 persons. On February 10, 1995, a mutiny occurred on the guided missile corvette 544 that was patrolling off Shandong province. In this incident it was reported that about seven instigators were sentenced to death, 12 ship officers were court-martialled and sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment, 30 officers were discharged from their duties and their Party membership revoked.12 Hence to curb these acts of indiscipline and also to overcome negative consequences of reform policies, the basic tasks of the latest political work system of PLAN include certain new demands, apart from those mentioned above, including adherence to Marxism, Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, CCP's "political line" and political education. These include:

l Oppose capitalist individualism;

l Build socialism with socialist spiritual civilisation as its nucleus;

l Strengthen naval discipline and maintain required standards for appearance and bearing, manners and health;

l Protect party's leadership and navy's character;

l Follow reform policies and revolutionisation, modernisation, and regularisation.13

The political work system of the Chinese navy in the recent period was strengthened following several all-round reform measures in the country. The new challenges brought by these reforms led to tightening up of the policies vis-à-vis the cadres of the navy. Four major reasons were identified by the PLAN Officers' Manual for this renewed effort. These are as follows:

l The political work programme while considering navy's high-tech orientation, complicated nature of expertise, modernisation and professional levels, should raise the socialist political consciousness and cultural levels of the naval personnel.

l As naval training exercises on the seas have been increasing in magnitude, the political work system should understand the difficult life of the sailors aboard the naval vessels and help enhance their capabilities.

l As the navy in the recent period has been overseeing an extensive maritime boundary, trade and exclusive and special economic zones, the naval personnel were exposed to the corrupting influences of the West and the "enemy". Contiguity with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao and other areas have led to a negative impact on the personnel. Hence the political work system should strengthen the implementation of the Four Cardinal Principles of the CCP and patriotic education.

l Need for a higher united organisation and a higher cadre level for implementing resolute measures to overcome the diversified nature of naval and training operations on coastal and high seas, surface, aerospace and submerged conditions.14


As stated earlier, the naval personnel of China have contributed critically to the making of the image of the present navy. Several of them provided the navy with a vision, strategic principles, and guided them through war and peace in the last five decades. Their impact on evolving ideological principles and organisational structure has been enormous. The interaction between the context within which they operated and the navy's specificities, legacies and organisational as well as political demands contributed to the final shaping of the PLAN. Among these, the successive Commanders and Political Commissars and other officials and sailors of the PLAN provided the necessary inputs for its further development. Though most of the missions of the PLAN were military in nature, the political dimension was not lost in executing these missions. Several political ideas, movements and manoeuvres of military nature like those of the campaigns of counter-blockade at sea during the formative phases of the PLAN, Korean War effort, Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, opposing the Soviet Union and the United States and so on were carried out by the personnel of the PLAN at various periods.15 The debates among the naval personnel on the relative emphases on "dogma" based on text book knowledge and applications to the actual conditions of the country, the equation between the "Red and Expert," modernisation and revolutionisation processes, the strategic direction of the navy and so on have been intense, though such a debate seems to be petering out in the latest phase of navy building.

Xiao Jingguang (1903-89) served the PLAN for the longest term in its history both as its Commander and Political Commissar. As a commander for nearly 30 years and being politically close to Mao Zedong, he oversaw a number of developmental programmes for the navy that acted as a bulwark against the naval incursions of other powers in the region.16 Xiao was instrumental in formulating the naval defence strategy of "sea guerilla warfare," building of a reasonably strong navy almost from scratch and guidance to the naval personnel in the turbulent period of the history of contemporary China17.

In January 1950 he became the Commander of the PLAN, in 1954 became, concurrently, the deputy Minister of National Defence of China and in 1955 received the navy's equivalent of a general's rank. At the very beginning of the development of the Chinese navy, Xiao laid down certain basic principles for the development of the navy. In the 1950s he unveiled a programme of giving thrust in the areas of naval aviation and building a strong submarine force.18

However, some of the revisions in the naval strategic principles of China by Xiao led to a major debate in the political circles of the country. Specifically, the most controversial of all of Xiaos's policies was his observation on the need for the further development of the navy towards a blue-water capability.19 This was opposed by various naval and political personnel in China, specifically as the country embarked on the road to the development of strategic weaponry. The programme of the so-called "gang of four" is to curtail the progress of the strategic naval weaponry stating that this policy amounted to encroaching on other countries. They felt that building an advanced navy would divert national resources and contradicted the people's war strategy. Through Su Zhenhua, the Political Commissar of the PLAN, they rallied against Xiao's plan to build a fleet of 14 vessels for monitoring the long-range test of Dong Fang-5.20 On April 8, 1972, Zhang Chunqiao, one among this gang, advocated continental principles of national defence rather than the offshore project of the "sea power lobby". Speaking at the CMC meeting, he said: "Now the guided missiles are well developed. Installed on shore, they can hit any target, and there is no need to build a big navy"21.

Ye Fei was the second Commander of the PLAN from 1980. He fought in the East China Field Army, and occupied various positions in the army before being transferred to the Navy in February 1979 as the political commissar. He became the vice-chairman of the National People's Congress after leaving the Navy.

Liu Huaqing occupies a unique position in the history of the growth of the PLAN. He is likened to be the Chinese version of Alfred Thayer Mahan for his emphasis on sea power that launched China on to the world stage in its maritime dimensions. As the commander of the PLAN in the 1980s, he revised several of the maritime strategic principles of the country. He not only set an expansion programme for the PLAN till 2040 but also, by several inputs to the CCP leadership, was instrumental in the strategic shift in the defence strategy of the country towards a blue water navy.

Liu was born in Dawu County in Hubei province in 1916 and joined the PLA at the young age of fourteen. Subsequently, he participated in several military engagements with the Japanese and Guomindang forces prior to the establishment of the PRC22. The founding of the PLAN saw a change in the fortunes of Liu who became the assistant commander and second political commissar of the first naval school. He was dispatched in 1954 to the Soviet Union for studying at the Voroshilov Naval Academy as a part of the Sino-Soviet naval cooperation programme.23 Here he was placed under the guidance of Sergei G. Gorshkov who became the doyen of the Soviet naval strategy. Returning to the PRC in 1958, Liu became the Assistant Commander and Chief of Staff of the Lushun Naval Base located in Liaoning Province. A couple of years later he became the base's commander and the deputy commander of the North Sea Fleet. In 1965 he was promoted to be deputy political commissar of the PLAN headquarters. Subsequently, in May 1965, during the Cultural Revolution he sided with Wang Hongkun and Li Zuopeng against the Political commissar of the PLAN, Su Zhenhua. He participated in the PLA Cultural Revolution Group but was relieved from this group and promoted to be the first vice-chairman of the National Defence Science Commission as Nie Rongzhen's assistant. From this time on, he concentrated on technological developments, indigenous and foreign. He worked with the Sixth Machine Building Industry. At this stage, he worked for the naval science and technology development programmes. However, he was soon caught again in the whirlpool of factional politics in the CCP and was removed from these positions by the Lin Biao group. In 1975 he was transferred to the Chinese Academy of Sciences to assist Deng Xiaoping in the reform of science and technology. After, the fall of the "gang of four", association with Deng boosted the prospects of Liu, who headed the PLAN between 1982-87 during one of its crucial phases and moulded its strategy to that of offshore defence. He established four goals in order to modernise the PLAN, including electronisation, automation, ballistic missile-equipment and nuclearisation. Subsequently, he became the deputy secretary general of the all-powerful CMC and one of its vice-chairmen before retiring from the service recently. He is considered a close ally of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin and headed the "sea power faction" in the military24.

Table 1. Naval Diplomatic Efforts

Delegation Destination Period/Marks

Indonesian Naval Chief of Staff, China February 1956. Talks with Rear Adm. R.Subyakto PLAN Cdr. Xiao Jingguang and PC Su Zhenhua.

Indian naval delegation on board Shanghai July 1958. Five day visit.

INS Mysore commanded by Rear Met PLAN Cdr. Xiao and

Adm A.Chakravarti Minister of National Defence Peng Dehuai. A mock naval battle performed using Chinese torpedo boats and naval aircraft.

Vice Adm.Fang Qiang and others in India January 1958

a military delegation headed by

Marshal Ye Jianying

Indonesian naval training ship Guangzhou June 1959 for five days.

Dewarutji's visit

Cuban naval delegation visit China 1964. On a month-long visit to various places.

Vice Adm. Muzaffar Hasan, Cdr of China September 1970. Met Mao

Pakistan Navy Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Xiao Jingguang and Li Zuopeng. Marked long-term Sino-Pak naval cooperation.

PLAN Political Commissar North Korea July 1971

Li Yaowen and others

Major General Choe Chang-hwan, China September 1971. Delivery of

Commander of North Korean Navy naval hardware to North Korea.

Chilean training ship sp visit Shanghai April 1972

Xiao Jingguang North Korea 1972. Deal on the Romeo class of submarines reported.

Vice Adm. Liu Daosheng and others Albania July 1973

Peruvian training ship Indepen- Shanghai March 1973

dencia's visit

Two Mexican frigates Cuautemoc Shanghai July 1976

and Cuitlahuac's visit

Vice Adm. Liu Daosheng and others France and September 1977


French destroyer Duguay Trouin Shanghai April 1978

Vice Adm. Du Yide and others Romania June 1978. Friendship delegation.

PLAN technical delegation France 1978. The delegation spent two weeks touring various naval installations.

Adm. Liu Huaqing as a part of the Britain November 1978

delegation led by Wang Zhen

Two Italian warships Ardito Shanghai October 1979

and Lupo

Liu Daosheng and others Britain 1979. Visited various installations for two weeks for probable purchase of naval hardware.

Adm. Liu Huaqing headed a Yugoslavia December 1979


Liu Huaqing as a member of a United States May 1980

military delegation headed by

Geng Biao

Algerian delegation China July 1980

Three British warships, Coventry, Shanghai September 1980

Antrim and Alacrity

Vice Adm.Liu Dasosheng headed Pakistan November 1980

a delegation

French helicopter carrier Jeanne Shanghai January 1981

D'Arc escorted by destroyer Forbin

Liu Huaqing's delegation Egypt and Sudan May 1981

Thailand naval commander China July 1981

Australian frigate Swan Shanghai 1981

Liu Huaqing Bangladesh January 1982

PLAN Deputy Cdr. Fang Qiang's Algeria April 1982


Ye Fei and others Thailand March 1982 on a six-day visit.

Liu Huaqing and others Pakistan and November 1983


Liu Huaqing's visit Britain and November 1984


Vice Adm. Nie Kuiju commanded Pakistan, Sri November 1985

two naval vessels Lanka and Bangladesh

Liu Huaqing's delegation France and the US November 1985

Rear Adm. Deng Zhaoxiang, PLAN Pyongyang September 1986. To attend

deputy Cdr.'s delegation the International Conference for Denuclearisation and Peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Vice Adm. Ma Xinchun commanded Hawaii (US) March 1989

a training ship

Liu Huaqing and others North Korea October 1989

PLAN Political Commissar Li North Korea April 1990

Yaowen's delegation

Liu Huaqing's delegation USSR May 1990

PLAN Vessels Vladivostok 1994


Three South China Sea Fleet vessels, Indonesia August 15, 1995. The three

by its Commander Rear Adm. vessels are: one guided missile

Wang Yangguo destroyer, one guided missile escort vessel and one supply vessel.

Joint China-US-Russian naval review. Gulf of Amur September 3, 1995.A Chinese

Vice Adm. Yang Yashu, Commander near Vladivostok frigate participated in this

of the East China Sea Fleet commanded review to commemorate the

the No.514 vessel. 50th anniversary of the end of the World War II.

Wahyu Sasongko's Indonesian vessel, Guangzhou From May17-20, 1996. Yang

"Dewa Ruci" Naval Base Fucheng, Commander of the Guangzhou Naval Base hosted the delegation.

PLA delegation along with deputy US December 5-9, 1996.

chief of the PLAN. Agreement on allowing the US vessels at Hong Kong signed.

PLAN naval fleet To United States 1997

Shi Yunsheng, Commander of PLAN Pakistan October 1997.

with a naval delegation.

PLA delegation along with Xu Surinam, June 1998.

Zhenzheng, deputy Commander Venezuela,

of the navy Ecuador and


Sources: Wolfgang Bartke, ed. Who's Who in the People's Republic of China (Munchen: K.G.Saur, 1991) 2 vols.; David Muller, Jr., China as a Maritime Power (Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1983); FBIS-CHI (various issues); SWB FE (various issues).

Zhang Lianzhong appointed by Deng Xiaoping as the Commander of the PLAN in succession to Liu Huaqing in January 1988, is one of the longest serving officers of the navy among all of the major arms and services, as well as in the seven military regions. His military career spanned over 50 years. As the fourth commander of the PLAN, he is a "third generation soldier" and lasted in that post till the end of 1996.25

Zhang was born in Jiaxian County of Shandong province in June 1931.26 He joined the CCP at the age of 17 and rose up the ladder. He fought in the famous battles of Huaihai and Changjiang before 1949. After graduating from the Hankou Advanced Infantry School, he was appointed as chief of staff of battalion in 1958. Subsequently he studied at the Naval Submarine Academy and the University of Science and Technology for National Defense, graduating in 1965 and 1980 respectively. Interaction with various high level commanders at this PLA University gave him sufficient theoretical knowledge about the strategic issues of the navy. His stint as the chief of staff of a submarine and then deputy detachment head and detachment head of the Second Submarine Detachment under the Qingdao base of the North China Sea provided the technical and tactical knowledge necessary for battle operations at sea. Besides, he commanded the first oceanic submarine training programme conducted by the PLAN in 1976. Though he never commanded a naval fleet and had not much experience in managing the comprehensive work of the Navy before, he was appointed as the Commander of the PLAN in 1988 upon the recommendation of Liu Huaqing. However, unlike his predecessors, one major factor that clinched his candidature for the post of Commander is the fact that he served for long periods in the submarine corps and at the grass-roots naval units27.

Among the specific issues that Zhang contributed for the further development of the PLAN were consolidation of the "sea-power lobby" and furthering expansion of the navy in its strategic orientation in China, reinforcing the modernisation trend in the navy, emphasis on the professional training of the naval personnel and so on. For the body polity of the country, he stressed the role of the navy in furthering the unification of the country. That is, he started preparing, during his long reign, several naval contingency programmes to counter the independence movement in Taiwan.

If a submariner held the post of the commander of the PLAN for nearly a decade and transformed it with various personal efforts, the next chance to command the navy was given to a person who was trained in naval aviation, the other major arm of the PLAN. Coinciding with reports of development of long-range oceanic capabilities of the PLAN, the necessity for achieving these goals through long range air power and aircraft carriers, Shi Yunsheng was appointed to the post of commander of the PLAN at the end of 1996. Shi, however, is a relatively young person in the hierarchy of the armed forces of China. Born in Fushun in Liaoning province in 1940, Shi graduated from a junior high school and joined the PLA in 1956.28 From the beginning, he charted himself to be a pilot—first with a preparatory aviation school and then at the Qingdao Naval Aviation Academy and graduated in 1962. For the greater part of his career, he worked with the North Sea Fleet Naval Air Force in various capacities from 1962 to the 1980s. In 1984 he was promoted to Commander of the South Sea Fleet Naval Air Force and participated in the 1988 South China Sea conflict with Vietnam. In October 1988, he was granted the rank of Rear Admiral. In 1990 he was promoted to be the deputy commander of the PLAN Air Force, in 1993 as the deputy Commander of the PLAN. Next year, in 1994 he was elevated to the rank of Vice Admiral and in December 1996 to the post of Commander of the PLAN.

Among Shi's achievements, mention should be made of the thrust he has given to flight training programmes, strengthening of aerial combat capabilities, rapid response capabilities, and assault capabilities that brought the entire division of the North Sea Fleet up to class A flight regiment standards. Likewise, at the South Sea Fleet Naval Air Force, his efforts to enhance the naval air force weaponry and in-service training up to class A flight regiment standards with long-range combat capabilities, have won accolades from the higher echelons of the PRC. He actively built a corps of carrier-borne helicopter troops, reorganised the naval aviation troops, and completed developing the first "Course for Aircraft Carrier Commanding Officers".

Table 2. Brief Sketches of Prominent Chinese Naval Personnel

Person Rank Positions held

An Liqun 1952- Rear Adm. Deputy Cdr of East China Sea Fleet from 1987; 1985-87 chief of staff of PLAN; 1984-85 identified as deputy chief of staff of PLAN; 1966-69 Captain of a warship; 1952 graduated from 2nd school attached to PLAN Academy.

Chen Mingshan 1931- Vice Adm. Deputy Cdr of PLAN from 1988; From 1985 to 1988 Cdr of South China Sea Fleet; Studied at PLA Military Academy from 1978; served in several naval units after graduating from the 3rd Naval School.

Deng Zhaoxiang 1902- Rear Adm. Deputy Cdr of PLAN from 1982-83; Deputy Cdr of North China Sea Fleet in 1962 and from 1978-81; Deputy chief of staff of Qingdao Naval Base; President of the Andong Naval Academy 1949-55; Defected to Communists in the civil war along with renamed warship "Chongqing" in 1949; studied at naval school of the Northern Warlords, Whampoa Military Academy, Yantai Naval Academy, and Nanjing Torpedo School.

Du Yide 1912- Vice Adm. Political Commissar of the PLAN from 1978-80; Deputy Political Commissar of PLAN from 1965-67 and after the Cultural Revolution, again from 1975-78; Deputy Cdr of PLAN from 1961-65; Political Commissar of Luda Garrison from 1953-55.

Fang Qiang 1909- Vice Adm. Deputy Cdr of PLAN from 1979-82; Denounced as an agent of He Long and removed from 1967-72; Minister of the 6th MMI responsible for building warships from 1963-67; Vice Minister of the 6th MMI from 1960-63; Commandant of the Nanjing Naval Academy; Deputy Cdr of PLAN from 1953-60; Cdr of the Central-South Naval Command from 1952-53.

Fang Hongda 1930- Rear Adm. Deputy Cdr of North China Sea Fleet from 1990; Director of Dalian Naval Vessels College from 1985-90; Deputy Director of Dalian Naval Vessels College from 1983-85; Captain of destroyers and other vessels; studied at Baku Naval Staff College in USSR from 1948-53.

Gao Zhenjia 1929- Vice Adm. Cdr of South China Sea Fleet from 1988; Commandant of PLAN Submarine School from 1983-86 and its deputy from 1979-83; Deputy Cdr of a Navy subdistrict from 1973-79; Deputy head and head of a navy vessel detachment from 1964-73; Captain of a naval vessel from 1955-64; Sent to Submarine Training Group in 1951.

He Changyun 1930- Rear Adm. Deputy PC of North China Sea Fleet from 1986-; Deputy Cdr of a Navy Fleet from 1983-85; Deputy Cdr of a Naval Base from 1981-83; Deputy PC and Head of the Naval Boat Detachment in the Naval Headquarters from 1969-81; Captain of a naval vessel from 1964-68; Graduated from the Navy Submarine School in 1964 and from the Advanced Navy School in USSR in 1955.

He Pengfei 1944- Rear Adm. Deputy Cdr of the PLAN, 1992-; Worked in the armaments department of the PLA. Arrested for six years in 1966-72; Son of Marshal He Long.

Jiang Kexu — Chief of staff of North China Sea Fleet from 1985; Director of the Training Department under the Navy Headquarters.

Kang Fuquan 1933- Vice Adm. PC of South China Sea Fleet, 1993-; PC of PLAN Command College,; Director of the Political Department of the PLAN Aviation Department, 1985-90; Director of Naval Advanced Electronic Engineering Training School, 1981-85; Deputy Director of Naval Communication School, 1974-81; worked at the Training Base of Naval Aviation, 1966-75; Chief of Naval Radio Station, 1956-60.

Li Chunming — Director of the Logistics Department of the PLAN

Li Dingwen, 1933- Vice Adm. President of Institute of Navy Command, 1990-; Director of Military Science and Technology Research Section, Training Department, Navy Institute; Taught at the Submarine Teaching Society and No.2 Navy School; Graduated from the PLAN United School.

Li Jing 1930- Vice Adm. Deputy Cdr of PLAN 1983- 85; Cdr of PLANAF from 1985-88; Graduated from an aviation school of the PLAN and became head of a flying squadron, flying group, deputy division cdr, division cdr, deputy chief of staff of the PLAN and deputy cdr of Air Unit Hqs. of the PLAN.

Li Shitian 1927- Vice Adm. Secretary and PC of the Discipline Inspection Committee under the PLAN from 1990-; PC of the North China Sea Fleet from 1985-; Director of Political Department of a Navy Base from 1979-85; Director and PC in the Political Department of a Navy Marine Garrison 1970-79; PC of a detachment and of a training regiment of the PLAN from 1958-69.

Li Yaowen 1918- Adm. PC of the PLAN from 1981-; PC of COSTND from 1977-80

Lian Yaoting 1930- Vice Adm. PC of East China Sea Fleet, 1990-; Deputy PC of Naval Aviation Department, 1988-90; PC of a Naval Base, 1983-88; Deputy Director of PLAN Cadre Department, 1979-83; PC of Motor Boat Detachment, 1977-79; Director of Political Department of a submarine detachment, 1976-77; Graduated from Naval Political School in 1956.

Liu Daosheng 1915- Vice Adm. 1st Deputy Cdr of PLAN from 1978-82; Deputy Cdr of the PLAN 1958-; Deputy PC of Central-South China Naval Headquarters from 1954-58; PC and Director of the Political Department of the Navy Headquarters 1950-54.

Liu Huaqing 1916- Adm. See text.

Liu Xizhong 1930- Rear Adm. Deputy Cdr of the South China Sea Fleet 1987-; Cdr of a Navy base from 1983-85; Cdr of a navy garrison, 1977-81; Cdr of a navy patrol zone, 1973-77; Commandant of naval vessel detachment, 1969-73; Captain of a naval vessel, 1956-58.

Liu Youfa 1922- Vice Adm. Secretary of the Discipline Inspection Commission of the PLAN,1985-; From 1950-84 served in a navy cadre department, as PC of a navy fleet and a navy base.

Ma Xinchun 1925- Vice Adm. Cdr of a Chinese training ship which visited Hawaii in 1989; Cdr of North China Sea Fleet, 1986-88; Chief of staff of the PLAN, 1984-85; Cdr of a naval base, 1981-82; Deputy Commandant of the 1st Navy School, 1970-77; Commanded a navy ship detachment in 1964-70, Deputy Director of the Operations Department of the PLAN, 1962-63; graduated from the PLAN Academy in 1961.

Mi Zhenyu 1931- Rear Adm. Graduated from PLA First Navy School in 1954 and taught there from 1955-60. From 1960-63 taught at Navy Commanding School. Later he was transferred to the PLA Academy of Military Science.

Nie Kuiju 1926- Vice Adm. Cdr of East China Sea Fleet, 1985-; Led two naval vessels to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan in November 1985; a carrier rocket was launched from his ship to the South Pacific Ocean; Deputy Cdr of PLAN, 1982-85; Chief of warship detachment, and chief of staff and finally Cdr of a naval base, 1962-82; Graduated from the PLAN Academy in 1960; From 1952-56 served in the East China Sea Fleet.

Qu Zhenmou 1930- Vice Adm. Cdr of East China Sea Fleet, 1993-; Cdr of North China Sea Fleet, 1990-93; Deputy Cdr of North and South China Sea Fleets, 1977-90; Deputy chief of staff of PLAN Fleet, 1976-77; Deputy leader of Naval submarine detachment, 1966-76; captain of submarine, 1959-66; Graduated from the Navy Command School in 1958.

Shan Dade 1932- Vice Adm. PC of PLANAF, 1990-; Deputy PC of PLANAF, 1985-90; Deputy PC of Naval Fleet Air Force, 1984-85; Vice President of Naval Aviation School, 1974-84; Director of flying technique inspection, 1960-78; Flying instructor at the 1st Navy Aviation School, 1956-57; Graduated from 1st Navy Aviation School in 1956.

Shi Yunsheng 1940- Rear Adm. Deputy Cdr of PLAN, 1992-; Deputy Cdr of PLAN Aviation Department, 1990-92; Cdr of Naval Aviation Fleet, 1983-90; Division Cdr of Naval Aviation, 1981-83; Studied at PLAN Academy in 1979; Deputy Cdr of Naval Fleet Aviation, 1976-81; Served in various positions in the naval aviation after graduating from the PLA Air Force Aviation School in 1962.

Tong Guorong 1931- Vice Adm. Deputy PC and Secretary of Discipline Inspection Commission of the PLAN, 1992-; Director and deputy director of the PLAN Political Department, 1984-85; Director and PC of Political Department of the Navy Marine Garrison,1977-83; Chief of security division of a navy base, 1970-77; judge of a military court of navy fleet, 1960-70; procurator of a naval base, 1957-60.

Wang Jiying 1933- Vice Adm. Cdr of North China Sea Fleet, 1993-; Deputy Cdr of North China Sea Fleet, 1983-93; Graduated from PLAN Academy in 1983 and Submarine School in 1959; From 1956-82 served in various capacities as captain of a submarine, deputy and then chief of staff of a submarine detachment.

Wang Xugong 1933- Vice Adm. Cdr of PLANAF, 1990-; Deputy cdr of PLAN Fleet Aviation, 1981-; Graduated from the 1st Aviation School of the PLAN in 1951, and from commander course of Air Force Advanced Aviation School in1961. Served in various capacities in the PLANAF as pilot and squadron leader, 1954-59; group cdr, regiment cdr, deputy division cdr, and division cdr in 1962-81 period.

Wei Jinnshan 1927- Vice Adm. PC of the PLAN, 1990-; Deputy PC of the PLAN, 1985-90; Served in various capacities of the political departments of the army.

Xing Yongning 1924- Vice Adm. Deputy Cdr of PLAN, 1988; PC of PLANAF, 1985; Served in the PLA Air Force.

Yang Huaiqing 1939 Rear Adm. Director of Political Department of the PLAN, 1992-; Served as PC of a naval base and Deputy Director of the Political Department of the PLAN.

Zhang Haiyun 1929- Vice Adm. PC of North China Sea Fleet, 1990-; PC of South China Sea Fleet, 1985-90; PC of Navy Surface Vessel School, 1984-85; Deputy PC of a Navy Base and Director of Political Department, 1983-84; Deputy Director of Political Department and Director of Cadre Department of PLAN Fleet, 1978-80; PC of a navy ship detachment, 1976-78; Deputy and then the PC of a navy ship from 1958-76; Graduated from the Navy Political School in 1958.

Zhang Lianzhong 1931- Adm. See text.

Zhang Wenhua 1926- Vice Adm. Deputy PC of the PLAN, 1990; PC of East China Sea Fleet, 1985; Director of Political Department of a navy fleet, 1983-85; PC of Navy Training Group, 1974-83; Director of Political Department of navy water garrison, 1964-74; President of military court of a navy base in 1958-60; Judge of a military court of a navy fleet, 1956-57; Deputy Director of Cadre Department of Seashore-Defence Army Headquarters of a navy base 1955-56.

Zhao Guochen 1935- Vice Adm. Chief of Staff of the PLAN, 1990; Carried out inspection to South Pole and served as deputy commander-in-chief of maritime formation, 1984-85; Served as cdr of a submarine detachment and a naval base, 1983-90; served in a submarine detachment, 1965-83 and as a torpedo officer in 1962-64 period; Graduated from Navy Command School in 1961, PLAN Academy in 1982 and National Defence University in1989.

Zhou Kunren 1937- Vice Adm. Deputy PC of PLAN, 1992; PC of a naval fleet, 1990-92; Deputy Director of Political Department of PLAN, 1987-90; Served in various capacities in the navy landing ship and submarine detachments and navy fleet in 1981-87 period; Graduated from the PLA Political Academy in 1980 and at the National Defence University in 1990.Note: 1. Incomplete information. 2. Cdr = Commander. 3. PC = Political Commissar. 4. Adm.= Admiral.

Sources: This is based on the information derived from Wolfgang Bartke, Who's Who in the People's Republic of China (Munchen: K.G.Saur, 1991) 2 vols.; Liao Gailong et al. eds. Who's Who in China: Current Leaders (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1994); Liao Gailong et al. eds. Who's Who in China: Current Leaders (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1989)

It was argued in this article that the political work system has been one of the central tasks of the Chinese Navy from its very beginnings that contributed to the moulding of the naval personnel to the socialist ethos of the CCP. Intended basically to transmit the CCP's perspectives within the organisational and ideological spheres of the navy, the political work system has contributed to a relatively stable, cohesive and politically vibrant navy, though it must be acknowledged that the very policies, programmes and political "line" of the CCP and the work of the naval cadres kept changing in the past 50 years. The interaction between the changing political work system and the contribution of the naval personnel has not been uniform in this period. Several changes have also occurred among the naval personnel, including the increasing trend towards professionalism as exemplified in the rise in the educational levels, rank system, changing social background, and so on.



1. See Zhu Yida, ed. Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence [Chinese People's Liberation Army Officers Manual: Naval Forces Part] [hereafter, Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence] (Wingdao: Qingdao Chubanshe, 1991) p. 625.

2. The political work system consists of political and ideological education, party building and other organisational work, cadre work, security, procurational and judicial work, mass work and culture and sports work. See for details on the nature and dynamics of the political work system, political departments and political commissars and their position vis-à-vis military commanders in the Chinese armed forces, National Defence University and General Political Department eds. Dangdai zhongguo junduide zhengzhi gongzuo [Modern Chinese Military Political Work System](Beijing: Dangdai zhongguo chubanshe, 1995); Zhang Aiping et. al. eds. Zhongguo renmin jiegfangjun [Chinese People's Liberation Army] 2 vols. (Beijing Dangdai Zhongguo Chubanshe, 1994) [hereafter, Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun] vol. 1 chapter 11, pp. 595-660; David Shambaugh, "The soldier and the state in China: the political work system in the People's Liberation Army" The China Quarterly, no. 127, September 1991, pp. 527-568; Srikanth Kondapalli, China's Military: The PLA in Transition (New Delhi: Knowledge World & IDSA, 1999) pp. 11-16; and 31-33 and Liu Mingzhi, "The Political Work System in the CCP Army" Trend (Hong Kong) January 1997, pp. 26-29 as excerpted in Inside China Mainland, April 1997, pp. 35-38.

3. This is drawn from Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, p. 623. Incidentally, in February 1953, during an inspection tour of the navy, Mao Zedong reportedly said, addressing the crew of a warship, and indicating the recruitment pattern said social background of the naval personnel. "The workers and peasants are becoming intellectuals, and the intellectuals are cultivating the consciousness of the workers and peasants." See, China News Service release of March 27, 1954 as cited by David Muller, Jr, China as a Maritime Power (Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1983) pp. 72 and 248.

4. See, for details, Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, pp. 626-627. On political and ideological education see Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun, vol. 1, n. 2, pp. 607-618. On cadre work Ibid., pp. 627-633.

5. For an elaboration of these thirteen points see Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, p. 627.

6. For various official documents of this "new period" and its implications for the building of the armed forces, see General Office of the Central Military Commission ed. Deng-Xiaoping guanyu xin shiqi jundui jianshe lunshu xuanhbian [Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping concerning the Army Building in the New Period] (Beijing: August First Publications, 1993) and for Chinese official interpretation of various aspects of this period, Deng Xiaoping xin shiqi jundui jianshe sixiang gailun [An Introduction to the Thought of Deng Xiaoping's Army Building in the New Era] (Beijing: Liberation Army Press, 1994). See also Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, p. 629.

7. On the overall structural reorganisation of the armed forces in the history of the People's Republic and specifically for its implications in the recent period of reform, see Kondapalli, n. 2, pp. 54-76.

8. Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, p. 625. See for a brief history of the political work system, Ibid., p. 629-30.

9. In January 1966, however, the only known defection of a small logistics naval craft took place in the northern Taiwan Straits area. Seven sailors aboard this vessel overpowered three naval officers and fled to Mazu island under the Taiwanese control. However, the Chinese aircraft soon bombed all of them. See, for details of this incident, Muller, Jr., n. 3, 130.

10. Incidentally in 1985 the Chinese leadership announced a 25 per cent cut in the number of the officers of the armed forces of the country, including the naval forces.

11. The Republic of Korea's Minister for Culture and Information reported the mutiny of the sailors on board these torpedo boats. See for details about this incident, Defence & Foreign Affairs Weekly, April 1-7, 1985, p. 3.

12. This is based on the information collected on acts of indiscipline among the armed forces in Kondapalli, n. 2, pp. 94-100.

13. Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, p. 624. For an elaboration of the three concepts and modernisation, revolutionisation and regularisation, their implications to the development of the armed forces of China and differing contexts, see Kondappalli, n. 2, pp. xviii-xix; 67-68.

14. Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, pp. 624-25.

15. For an excellent consideration of the debates within the Chinese navy on these issues see Muller, Jr., n. 3, pp. 69-77; 127-42; and 200-208.

16. For details, Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, pp. 498-99.

17. See Jun Zhan, "China Goes to the Blue Waters: The Navy, Seapower Mentality and the South China Sea" Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, September 1994, pp. 180-208 (pp. 187-188).

18. To elaborate, Xiao concentrated on the following two principles in the development of the PLAN:

(a) "yi kog, qian, kuaiweizhu, yiqianting wei zhongtian";

(b) "zhi xiandaihua fengyou gongfang lide, jinhaide, jingxingde haishang zhantou liliang" (See, for this quotation, Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence, n. 1, p. 499).

19. Ibid.

20. Su Zhenhua is generallyconsidered to be in the anti-Mao faction in the navy and reportedly worked at the behest of Marshal He Long. See Muller Jr., n. 3, pp. 133-34.

21. Zhang Chunqiao cited by Xinhua, March 14, 1977 in John Wilson Lewis & Xue Litai, China's Strategic Seapower: The Politics of Force Modernisation in the Nuclear Age (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994) p. 223.

22. See for a biographical sketch of Liu Huaqing, "Liu Hua-ch'ing-Commander of the PLA Navy" Issues & Studies, vol. 21, no. 5, May 1985, pp. 126-130.

23. See the entry on Liu Huaqing in Wolfang Bartke, Who's Who in the People's Republic of China (Munchen: K.G. Saur, 1991) 2 vols, vol. 1, p. 364 for details.

24. See Liao Wen-chong, "China's Blue Waters Strategy in the 21st Century: From the First Islands Towards the Second Islands Chain" Occasional Paper Series (Taipei: Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, September 1995) pp. 3-4 and appendix 2.

25. This is based on the biographical account by Liu Hsia-hua, "PLA Navy Commander Zhang Lianzhong" Kuang Chiao Ching (Hong Kong) January 16, 1996, no. 280, pp. 44-46 in FBIS-CHI-96-029, February 12, 1996, pp. 26-32.

26. See Liao Gailong et al. eds., Who's Who in China: Current Leaders (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1994) p. 863.

27. For a short profile of Zhang see Bradley Hahn, "Third ranking maritime power—and growing" Pacific Defence Reporter, vol. XV, no. 4, October 1988, pp. 46-49 & 52 (p. 49). From 1965-75 he served as navy warship captain; deputy commander and commander of a warship detachment in 1975-79 period, Deputy chief of staff of the North Sea Fleet in 1979-83 period and then became commander of a naval base in 1983-85 period before becoming the deputy commander of the PLAN in 1985. See Liao Gailong, n. 26.

28. This account is based on the biographical sketch of Shi drawn by Yale Y. Chen in Inside China Mainland, February 1997, pp. 82-83.