China's Naval Training Programme

Srikanth Kondapalli, Research Fellow, IDSA


In the last five decades, the naval training programme of China has undergone several important changes in its policy, method, content and organisation of training. The transition from recruiting army personnel and modifying them into naval personnel at the beginning of the history of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), from changing these naval personnel into a professional corps with regular organisational education and training methods, has been significant.

In the early years of the republic, the training of the naval personnel was, at the most, rudimentary.1 Repeated attacks on the coastal areas by the Nationalists from Taiwan proved detrimental to any full-scale sea training programme. Hence, for the most part, training of the naval personnel was carried out along the banks of inland rivers. Oceanic training was almost unheard of in this period.2 In the formative period of the PLAN, as a result of internal civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists, naval training formed a part of the fighting process. Elaborate and regular training procedures, regulations, and so on, were largely absent in this period.3 In what was termed as the contradiction between men and techniques [ren he jishu maodun], this period witnessed several measures to cope with the lacunae in the navy.4 As a result, the early training programme of the PLAN, in 1950, was compelled to accommodate several handicaps and adopt certain emergency measures of combining training with actual fighting.5 The training programme on surface vessels had the following main points:

l Training on surface vessel had two facets:

— Xianyong xianjiao xianxue, houyong houjiao houxue, shaoyong shaojiao shaoxue buyong bujiao buxue [first use, teach (and) study...]

— Bianjiao bianzuo bianlian [learn while working (and) training.]

l Professional short-term courses: From the 1950-53 period, the east and south-west naval military districts in cooperation with the Qingdao naval base trained army personnel in naval warfare. In this period, a total of about 130 batches of students and cadres numbering about 8,394 were trained in such activities. Most of the instructors of these classes, on the one hand, have to work as commanders of vessels, and on the other, they have to teach in these schools.

l Jiehe zhixing renwu jinxing xunlian [integrate (and) carry out the mission of (naval) exercises].6

In carrying out these policies, Zhang Aiping led 100-member naval troops on board Guangzhou and other vessels for training in 1950 in order to regularise the nascent training methods.7 However, by 1954, forces for modernising and regularising the naval training programme gathered momentum in China.8 In the same year, the PLAN published an order titled, "Strengthen Naval Exercises on the Seas," pushing through a series of policy changes in the naval training programme. Initially, from 1956-58, the PLAN undertook the translation and study of nearly 111 Soviet naval training manuals from Russian into Chinese.9 Later, it modified the naval training programme to include the following two main points:

l Gonggu tigao, wenbu qianjin, zhilian diyi, anquan diyi [enhance consolidation, advance steadily, quality first, safety first];

l Xunxu jianjin [follow in order and advance step by step (the formula) of qixian qihou—seven steps first and seven steps later—i.e. xianbaitian houyejian, xianlilun houcaolian, xianjishu houzhanshu, xiandanjian houbiandai, xianjinhai houyuanhai, xianjiandan houfuza, xianyizhuan houduoneng (first during day time, later during the night time, first concentrate on theory and then on training, first technique and then tactics, first on one ship, later in formations, first in coastal seas, later oceanic, first simple, later complex exercises, first focus on one thing, later on many)].10

Naval Education System

Though the early training programme of the PLAN was characterised by sporadic efforts, subsequently, with the establishment of a growing number of schools and academies, the naval training programme of China was given a boost.11 Through these academia, the PLAN intended to institutionalise and regularise the training methods. The PLAN has about 13 schools to train a large number of sailors and officers. It has 42 masters' degree student training centres, four doctoral student training centres and facilities to send technical personnel to civilian universities and abroad in about 300 research fields.12 Four of the 13 naval schools cater to the needs of training commanding officers. The remaining nine schools train either technical officers or non-commissioned officers.13 The following places are identified to have some of the major training centres in China:

1. The Submarine Institute established at Qingdao in 1953 with over 2,000 students, studying in about 40 courses, was disbanded during the Cultural Revolution in February 1969. However, the same was re-established in December 1973. Qingdao is also the location for the Aviation School to train the naval aviation cadets.

2. Dalian Warship Institute, also called as the First Surface Vessel Academy.14 A Political School is also located at Dalian. The Warship Institute was established even prior to the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC). In 1946, the Democratic Naval Academy for training Communist naval cadets was established with the assistance of the Soviets at Dalian. Before the establishment of the PRC in 1949, this academy had already graduated more than 300 naval personnel, including some sent to Vladivostok for submarine training.15

3. Guangzhou Warship Academy, also called the Second Surface Vessel Academy. As the contacts of the PLAN have increased considerably after the launching of the reform process in 1978, and as it comes, on a regular basis, in contact with other navies in the high seas as well as in territories under its jurisdiction, this academy introduced several study courses for naval officers including one on the law of armed conflicts sponsored by the International Red Cross Society. By November 1995, three such courses were offered to several naval officers. Based on the first two sessions, Chinese naval experts at the academy prepared a report on "The Development of the Chinese Navy and Its Practice of the Law of Naval Warfare."16

4. Nanjing Naval Command Academy.

5. Wuhan Engineering College.

6. Yantai Aviation Engineering College located in Shandong Province.

The academies and schools in China are training two categories of personnel today. They are commanding naval officers and technical officers. Stress is laid in the naval academia to encourage cadets to reach college level or above. In April 1983, as a part of the reform measures, the PLAN started an examination system for evaluating naval cadets.17 In this direction, a system of training three-level and four-tier naval commanding officers and a system of training technical officers with junior college education as the mainstay have been established over a period of time.18 When the Chinese started reading and implementing Soviet naval training manuals, they also adopted, partly, some of the Soviet naval educational practices. In the early 1950s, it was stated that three basic aspects of the Soviet naval training programme viz., common curriculum [kemu], professional techniques and tactics were adopted by the Chinese. In order to qualify for the common curriculum training programme, cadets need to study subjects including routine service regulations [tiaoling], ordinances [tiaoli], rules [guizhang], damage control [sunhai guanzhi] measures, under water, defence against biological and chemical warfare [fang hefanghua xue wuqi], ship-building techniques, sports, reconnaissance, health and so on. In order to qualify for professional technical training, cadets should learn about navigation [hanghai], artillery, sea-borne armaments, telecommunications, mechanical engineering, radars, acoustics, counter-electronics, etc. For qualifying for the tactical training programme, the naval cadets were expected to learn theory and principles of tactics, single-ship tactics, multiple-ship tactics, and so on. For those who wish to become naval aviators, cadets should study theory and real operations.19

There has been a general increase in the number of instructors and college graduates in the PLAN. By 1972, the PLAN had about four instructors' regiments, training in rotation about 2,118 cadres.20 More than 95 per cent of the officials on board a destroyer unit in the East Sea Fleet have a college-level education. With this background they were able to make more than 2,000 proposals for improving the design and manufacture of new naval vessels.21 By the 1990s, nearly 84.5 per cent of officers in naval vessel units had reportedly received college education or above. All officers at or above combat vessel department heads and pilots in naval air units are reportedly college graduates.22 However, of late as a part of the reform of the naval academies, there has been a tendency to increase the number of the technical officers compared with the number of commanding naval officers. The technical officers currently account for more than half of the naval officers.23 In 1997, the number of naval graduates who had passed through their training programmes was reported to be 56. All of them have been assigned to duty in grassroots work units at the regimental level or lower. That figure represents 70 per cent of the total number of graduates.24

Reform of the Training Methods

In consonance with the overall changes initiated by the Chinese leadership from 1978, the naval training programme also underwent radical changes. The PLAN introduced several reform measures in order to revamp the training programme. One of the first measures in this direction was made by a naval conference held in Luxun base in May 1978. Here, it was resolved that the training and management work on destroyers, frigates and other vessels should be regularised forthwith.25

Several naval officers in this period have given valuable suggestions for reforming the naval training programme. One such suggestion came from Admiral Zhang Lianzhong. Zhang, who commanded the first submarine long-range naval training into the Pacific, stressed in his article "Deepening Reform and Comprehensively Enhancing the Training Level of Navy Troops", the intensification of training of the naval personnel so as to reach world levels by utilising the current lull in the strategic environment of China. He said:

The fundamental aim in bringing about a strategic shift in the guiding ideology of Army building is to make full use of the present relatively peaceful international environment, seize favorable opportunities, speed up the Army's modernization and standardization, and comprehensively improve the combat effectiveness of our units under the conditions of modern war...all officers and men of the Navy should further enhance their understanding of the importance of military training under peaceful conditions, take earnest steps to place education and training in strategic position, and be fully aware of the fact that we should not slacken our efforts in military training for a second even if no war is being fought at the moment.26

In the 1980s, reform of the naval training programme in China was guided by the principle of xunlian zhongxian [training at the centre]. As a part of this principle, new training mechanisms were established, "training troops" were commissioned, and so on. In 1982, the destroyers of the East Sea Fleet started naval exercise reform in theory, coastal training techniques, and so on. From 1983, submarine training reform was stressed.27

As several cases of political appointments of naval officers were reported and as it was considered to be detrimental to the building of a professional navy, a system of promotions through "fair competition in peacetime" was initiated by the PLAN. As a part of this effort, "all-round-training qualification tests" were conducted to assess officers for crucial jobs in the navy. This was based on the General Staff Department's 1993 policy for troops in all services, including the PLAN. It stated that several means should be utilised to train the troops, including "inspection, assessment, competition, commendation and incentives to gradually form an effective system for supervision, competition and encouragement during training in an effort to encourage the enthusiasm of troops."28 Based on this policy, the PLAN implemented the examination system step by step, including:

First it stipulated that captain trainees can only be appointed as captains after they qualify to operate a ship independently. After this, it implemented the all-round training qualification tests on single-ship subjects for naval vessel cadres, and it specified that captains, political commissars and department heads must complete every single-ship subject stipulated in the training programme before they sit for the naval vessel cadre qualification examination. Those who pass will be awarded certificates, and, in addition to being eligible for promotion, they also will receive material rewards.29

However, this does not entail a guaranteed service in the navy, as that was thought to set in complacency and lethargy in the naval ranks. According to the navy, these tests and spot checks are conducted even after the promotion of the officers and those who fail these tests are to be stripped of their qualifications and pay. By this method, most of the commanders of detachments and groups have been promoted from among captains after passing these tests. As a part of this "captain's project", the PLAN started sending captains to study in colleges for the second time.30 According to this programme, the detachment selects the most promising officers, including from among its first-line of captains, co-captains, heads of general operations and department heads, who have all received tertiary education, and transfers them to naval academies for advanced coaching. Even after graduating from these academies, these cadets have to undergo further tests in order to become captains of corvettes or destroyers. These captains were expected to have undergone:

...a wide range of professional knowledge and skills on 34 professional and academic subjects, covering microelectronics, PERT, CPM, navigation, dynamics, telemetering and remote control, and aviation and astro-navigation. The several dozens of captains and co-captains of the detachment [of the East Sea Fleet], whose average age is just a little over 30, all enjoy a tertiary educational background, while one-third of the officers at the detachment level have acquired double academic attainments. Meanwhile the detachment has brought up captains of a new generation who can both pilot a plane in the sky and a ship on the sea. Of all the cadres working on the warships under the detachment, over 96 percent are college graduates, while 19 are currently pursuing doctoral and postgraduate studies in the country's key universities.31

This "captain project" is generally considered as more important, by some in the PLAN hierarchy, than building modern warships. The reasons are obvious; it takes nearly 10-20 years to train a qualified captain according to Chinese sources.32 Again, the modernisation of the naval vessels by either indigenous efforts or acquisition of warships from abroad in the recent period, necessitated comprehensive training. To elaborate, in order to utilise the latest sophisticated systems on the warships, including the all-function automatic electronic control system, satellite navigation system and missile control and guidance system, the training programme of the captains was intensified to overcome the contradiction between personnel and advanced equipment.33 Hence, in the past decade, the PLAN made several efforts to further this project.

Another related training method that was introduced to enhance the operational capabilities of the naval personnel manning advanced weapons is the "project of crack units." Under this programme, training under "all-positions and all-weather conditions" is targetted. After graduation of the cadets and their reverting to the units after further tests, naval personnel are:

...required to take professional and post-qualification training many as 200 sessions a year have been arranged on 34 applied academic subjects, including guided missiles, cannon radar, and mechanical and electronic engineering. Over the past five years [a certain detachment under the East Sea Fleet], has brought up thousands of "scholar-type officers" and "knowledge-type officers," while a "scholars' group" can be found on every warship of the detachment.34

These two projects—"captain's project" and the "project of crack units"—according to the Chinese sources, have improved the "overall qualifications training" of the PLAN, moulding scores of captains and more than 3,000 department heads and skilled technical personnel from 1990 to 1995.

Following the changes and requirements in the overall defence doctrine of the PRC, the PLAN introduced nearly ten difficult subject for training in 1995 to suit the needs of "naval warfare under high-tech conditions". These include: two vessels taking turns in attacking a large isolated naval target, an individual submarine launching sustained attacks on multiple targets, submarine-to-aircraft confrontation, and long range torpedo attacks.35 Other such subjects include intensive maritime training under harsh weather conditions such as complicated sea areas, violent storms, dark nights, dense fog and under the situation of "damaged" warships; coordination among warships and fighters and among fleets, confrontation between anti-aircraft warships and aircraft, and landing operations during exercises; single-vessel and combined offensive and defence drill in the Pacific, supply drills in the Indian Ocean, patrolling in the South China Sea, etc.

Training on the surface ships is considered one of the most important exercises by the PLAN leadership. There have been three kinds of changes in the training programme on the surface ships. As the naval warfare is becoming complicated with the addition of new equipment and modern methods, the PLAN stressed on the transition of naval training from manually operated guns to the commissioning of more missiles and electronic equipment and the enhancement of automation. The effort here is to acquire "all-weather" navigation, offensive and mine-laying capabilities. In the recent period, as a result of these measures, ten major systems, including guided missiles, rockets, and power supply of the flotilla's new warships are operated electronically and automatically. Secondly, transition from offshore training to training on ocean going vessels was stressed. As a part of this, a number of voyages have been undertaken with several hundred formation courses and single-vessel courses performed on the oceans. Thirdly, the need to transform from single-gun and single-warship fighting into three-dimensional and comprehensive attacks and penetration of defences was realised.36

Several changes have been undertaken to transform the training methods of submarine warfare. Firstly, in what was termed as "modern warfare and anti-submarine warfare under high-tech conditions", the training reform tried to "substantiate, update, and reorganise the content of submarine training, and boldly improve the methods of group training" by giving full play to the "new technological installations, such as their long-range and multiple-tracking functions and strong offensive power."37 Secondly, a shift in this training programme was effected from technical training to tactical training. That is, earlier, the submarines were used for laying mines. However, since the submarines "will be confronted with a three-dimensional air and sea anti-submarine system under high-technological conditions", the training programme for future naval actions would include "various tactical actions in attack, defence, and reconnaissance."38 Thirdly, change from defensive to offensive operation. That is, to enhance the capability of an individual submarine to launch sustained attacks on multiple targets, a submarine unit in the East China Sea "proposed turning passive evasion into active breakthroughs and launching sustained attacks on multiple targets in formation when it is impossible to break through a naval defence line of enemy formation."39 The orientation of the submarine training in the recent period included deep-water concealed offensives, anti-submarine attacks, and long-range breakthroughs.

To improve combat readiness and training, several activities were undertaken by the PLAN officials. One such project concerns the improvements in the under-water mine-laying training. It was reported that Chao Chunyi, a torpedo and mine officer serving in a submarine detachment of the PLAN, achieved sixteen research results in this field and has cut mine-loading time in half. He also reportedly developed a device that can control mines' ballistic movements.40

In the training programme of the PLAN, according to official sources, the naval air units were not neglected. To strengthen the combat capabilities of naval aviation, the Chinese naval authorities initiated several training programmes.41 In the process, several of the past practices were abolished or reformed in the light of the recent changes in warfare strategy and tactics. After reviewing the naval air force exercises conducted in the Yellow Sea on April 2, 1999, a Chinese source contended that see that the training level continuously develops along deeper lines, we must uphold reform and innovation, ideologically breaking through the old framework of traditional modes and outdated thinking. Of course, in the process of reform and innovation, perhaps some results are not so perfect, and there might remain a certain distance from actual combat standards. However, only with scientific demonstration and bravery at trying new things will we be able to exceed ourselves, and realize a fundamental leap in the level of training.42

As a result of the reform of the naval aviation training programme, several innovations were introduced, including an automation system that collates radar information and command guidance of the naval air force's and sea operations replacing oral, handwritten, hard-copy materials and other manual operations. Henceforth, the Chinese naval aviators expect that the application of the new automated command system would overcome problems in speed, accuracy and efficiency. They predict an increase in the speed of transmission of radar transmission by 15-fold.

Future naval warfare and the needs of modern equipment, according to the Chinese, require naval aviation personnel to undergo rigorous three-dimensional training in command skills. The solution that the Chinese thought about in this regard is the transformation of some of the naval aviators into naval captains. As a part of this effort, the PLAN selected the first batch of naval aviators in 1987 and sent them to academies to learn to command naval vessels. By August 1995, it was reported that the fist batch of former aviators had graduated to take up posts of captains and co-captains on destroyers and escort vessels. By 1995, nearly "70 per cent of these graduates are escort vessel captains, while the remaining are all co-captains on destroyerts."43 Another measure in this direction of training the naval aviators from the early 1990s was that the combat aircraft of Haikong Xiongying Regiment under the Navy's Flight Unit took part in about 500 flight training exercises and reportedly reached the target accurately four times. It won the top prize four times in more than 20 major air exercises. It has reportedly won the title of Advanced Unit in Military Exercise from the navy five years in a row. It was further stated that "everyone in the regiment is capable of al-weather, minimum-altitude flying."44

As for the search and anti-submarine mission of the naval air force, several changes have been made recently. In the past, the anti-submarine helicopters under the guidance of three sea fleets air force command centres or underwater submarines of the navy performed this task. However, several deficiencies were detected over a period of time, including, short flight duration, limited search range, narrow search scope, and so on. Hence, in addition to acquiring enhanced helicopters, the patrol craft of the navy were used in the recent training programmes "to overcome and improve" the "existing equipment constrain[ts] " According to a Chinese account of traversing the "chasm" constraining the growth of combat capabilities, the additional utilisation of the

...patrol craft in control of guidance in this instance was to use the relative superiorities [sic] to mitigate deficiencies, putting into play the long flight endurance, and wide search scope of the patrol craft, using the patrol craft to first discover the position of the "enemy" submarine, and then through "bridging", to guide in the anti-submarine helicopter with its high speed, and accurate attack efficiency.45

Clearly, despite the advances made in the naval aviation training, the constraints imposed due to a lack of sophisticated equipment to detect submarines, led to the resort to patrol craft.

Blue-water training for the naval personnel is essential for an effective campaign to achieve the objectives of controlling the high seas and oceans far beyond the maritime borders of the country. However, such training entails a higher level of preparation and resources. That the PRC is serious about acquiring a blue-water capable navy is also seen in the earnest preparation the PLAN made in training naval personnel in the last two decades.

As early as in 1976, the Central Military Commission (CMC) for the first time approved an oceanic voyage, the first to go beyond the first island chain and enter the Pacific Ocean, for training of the naval personnel of the Submarine No.252. This training programme lasted for 30 days and nights and covered a distance of about 3,300 nautical miles.46 Since then, such training programmes have been expeditions intensified in qualitative and quantitative terms. The PLAN, thus, undertook various expeditions, including the 1980 South Pacific, 1984 Antarctica, 1985 Indian Ocean expeditions, and so on. According to one official report, the blue-water training capability of the naval units to "move, shoot accurately, link and combine successfully" has improved sharply.47 About 80 per cent of naval personnel, including "principal officers" on more than 100 ships, had completed long-range navigational training by the end of the 1980s. The rate of "qualified skippers" rose from six per cent in 1980 to 65 per cent in 1989.48 Annual training tasks were set up by the PLAN for the purpose of oceanic training. It has been reported that the naval battleship and submarine units have fulfilled 85 per cent respectively of required annual training tasks with 95 per cent of service arms participating in ocean training, and per capita ocean training periods reaching 36 days among battleship cadres at and above the division level.49

In addition to the regular naval training programmes, the PLAN has also introduced a system of training reserve naval personnel who are to be recalled to replenish combatant ships during war-time. For this purpose, China commissioned a national naval mobilisation ship named Shi Chang named after a national hero. Shi Chang started its first naval reserve mobilisation drill at sea in mid-July 1999 from the northern region and sailed more than 2,000 nautical miles past the maritime boundaries of China, and reportedly completed naval reserve mobilisation, embarkation, drills and other training subjects. In this exercise, nearly 250 naval reservists took part in the training cruise.50

Naval Exercises

Naval exercises are conducted the world over for a variety of reasons, including testing of the naval troops in war-like scenarios. China is no exception to this rule. However, the number of naval exercises conducted in the last two decades far out-number that of the previous three decades of the PLAN's history. The reasons are innumerable but the most important of these include revision of the overall defence and naval strategy from People's War to Local Wars and from a coastal defence strategy to an oceanic ambition and assertion, modernisation and regularisation of the naval troops, and so on.

The earliest naval exercises of the PLAN were conditioned, apart from other reasons, by the conflict and relative inferiority with Taiwan-US forces in the region. The number of such PLAN exercises increased in frequency only in the recent period. For instance, according to an official account of the Chinese military, the number of naval exercises till about the 1970s was about 20. By the late 1950s, the PLAN reportedly crossed the 2,500 nautical mile range in its exercises, including about 42 per cent of these performed under water with a maximum of 514 hours of submergence. It was also mentioned that from 1961 to 1964, every year, nearly 70 per cent of the PLAN's ships participated in naval exercises with a maximum utilisation of 90 per cent in a year.51 Subsequently, the number of naval exercises increased by leaps and bounds as Table 1 indicates.

Table 1. Naval Exercises by China


1957 60 surface ships at Luxun base in seven day & night exercises.

1957 4 submarines at Quingdao base in a 73-day exercise.

1957 East Sea Fleet's 62 ships in a 10-day exercise.

1957 South Sea Fleet's 20 ships in a 26-day & night exercise.

1957 No.5 Marine detachment in a 40-day & night exercise.

1957 Wenzhou exercise with 12 ships for 70 days & nights.

July 5-27, 1958 Three submarines in the Yellow Sea for reconnaissance for 22 days & nights.

January 24, 1977 SS 252 forces used by PLAN for long distance training in the West Pacific.

July 24-29, 1977 SS 296 forces used by PLAN for deep-diving test in the South China Sea.

May 20-June 19, 1979 "795" exercise in the Yellow/South China Sea.

March 30, 1980 SS 256 forces used by the PLAN for combat training in the Pacific.

April 28-June 2, 1980 ICBM flight test; PLAN vessels used as task force in the South Pacific.

August 18, 1980 ICBM launch in the South Pacific.

October 19-28, 1980 Long distance training for PLAN in West Pacific.

November 8, 1980 Patrol in the Spratlys with 2 H-6 aircraft.

July 29, 1981 Torpedo launch, SS 235 used.

March 1982 Combined training in the Bohai Sea.

October 12, 1982 SLBM launch 300 km. north of Taiwan by 1 SSB.

June 12, 1983 Training in South China Sea.

April 8, 1984 Satellite launch support by J 506.

May 12, 1984 Training by 3 ships in North Pacific.

November 20-April 10, 1985 Expedition to Antarctica by J 121.

September 28-October 18, 1985 Rocket launch, submarines used.

November 16-January 19, 1986 Diplomatic port call in the Indian Ocean by DDG 132, AOR, X615.

January 12, 1986 Exercise with US 7th Fleet in South China Sea with 2 ships.

May 1986 Combined arms exercises in north-west Pacific. The exercise included several dozen naval coordinated combat manoeuvres and covered several thousand nautical miles. The exercise also tested the units' war-time communications, security, ship maintenance, equipment and facilities, and political work. The exercise was designed to meet the requirements of future naval warfare and to explore new ways of carrying out coordinated naval training.

December 31, 1986 Long distance training by 1 SSN.

May 4-June 1987 Refuelling in the Pacific by 9 DDG, FF, AOR.

May 16-June 6, 1987 Patrol in the Spratlys by 7 DDG, FF, AOR.

May 29, 1987 Multi-ship supply in the Pacific.

August 10, 1987 Laser/electronic simulation by all ships in the Yellow Sea.

October 12-late November, 1987 Combined arms exercise by all ships in the West Pacific/South China Sea.

March 14, 1988 Armed conflict with Vietnam in the Spratlys. Participation of all ships.

September 14- October 3, 1988 SLBM launch in East China Sea; 1 SSBN participated.

November 25, 1988 Patrol in the Spratlys by 1 DDG.

March 31-May 1989 Diplomatic port call at Hawaii by 1 training ship.

May 3-8, 1989 The "1989" exercise at Hainan Island/Xisha Islands by all DDG, FFG, SS, air force and marines.

May 18-September 1989 Blockade and underwater exercise by the East China Fleet in the West Pacific and South China Sea involving all DDG, FFG, SS, AOR.

July-September 1989 Nanjing Military Region (MR) exercise at Jiulongjiang near Jinman.

September 14-27, 1989 Rocket launch by 1 submarine.

Autumn 1989 Nanjing MR exercise in the waters near Penghu Islands off Taiwan.

October-December 1989 East China Sea Fleet exercises in the open seas beyond the littoral zone.

?, 1990 Probable Group Army (GA) joint combined-arms exercise between ground and naval forces in Shenyang MR. Exercise included amphibious operations.

March 9-12, 19990 "Cheng Gong 1" exercise in the East Coast; Jian-8 fighters involved.

April 1990 Naval reconnaissance and marine troops in the amphibious operations on the coral reef islands (probably in the South China Sea).

August 14, 1990 Probable fleet combined-arms exercise by the South China Sea Fleet.

Late September 1990 Shenyang MR naval militia in an exercise of transporting the troops and arms under battle conditions.

September 20, 1990 Probable air force combined-arms island landing exercise in the South China Sea. Exercise included airborne forces.

October 20, 1990 Air-borne exercise on a South China Sea Island.

December 5, 1990 Diplomatic port call at Hawaii.

? February 1991 Probable div. called "All Army Advanced Unit in Military Training". This unit conducted a joint coordinated landing exercise between ground and naval forces. Exercises were over a three-year period by the Guangzhou MR.

February 8, 1991 Navy's air force exercises including "unprecedented scenario in training" such as low penetration flights.

April 10-May 4 1991 "Bei Fang 91" exercise in East China Sea/Yellow Sea by all ships.

April 12, 1991 Live fire training in East Coast involving 10+DDG, FFG, SS.

April 19-June 19, 1991 Amphibious exercise in Guangxi/Hainan Island by 1st Marine Brigade.

June 1991 South Sea Fleet combined-arms exercise.

Midsummer 1991 Probable GA joint combined-arms training between ground and air forces of the Shenyang MR.

July 1991 Navy sea-faring, combined arms exercises in the Yellow Sea & Bohai Sea.

August 12-September 15, "9107" exercise near Qingdao by all ships.

September 2-October 2, 1991 "Nan Jin III exercise in East China Sea by all ships.

October 1991 Exercise along the Yangtze River.

October 23-24, 1991 Probable Tianjin Garrison joint combined-arms opposing forces exercise between ground, naval, and air forces. Exercises by the Beijing MR units included amphibious and chemical defence operations.

November 17, 1991 Air force exercises over the Yellow Sea.

December, 1991 Air force exercises in East China Sea.

? December 1991 North Sea Fleet combined-arms exercises.

End 1991 East Sea Fleet combined-arms exercise.

May 10, 1991 Under replenishment in the Yellow Sea by all ships.

June 1, 1992 Combined arms exercise in East China Sea by the East Sea Fleet.

June 1992 South Sea Fleet missile launching exercise.

? July 1992 North Sea Fleet combined-arms exercise, including ship and air operations.

1993 Guangzhou MR's probable div. "All Army Advanced Unit in Military Training" conducted joint coordinating landing operations between ground and naval forces.

March 1993 North Sea Fleet's probable combined-arms opposing force exercise. Participation of DDG & SS.

October 1993 Shenyang MR's joint combined-arms exercise between ground and naval forces. Amphibious operations were conducted on the Liaoning Peninsula.

October 1993 North Sea Fleet combined-arms exercise.

Late October 1993 Nanjing MR's probable div. joint combined-arms exercise between ground and air forces. This exercise included the use of pilotless aircraft and battlefield monitoring systems (TV).

January 1994 Triservices joint exercises at Zhanjiang by the Guangzhou MR and South Sea Fleet.

Mid March 1994 Jinan MR's opposing forces anti-landing exercise between ground and naval amphibious forces.

? March 1994 South Sea Fleet probable joint combined-arms and logistics exercise. Amphibious and support operations. Scenario appeared to counter an attack of the mainland.

June 1994 North Sea Fleet combined-arms exercise with submarines and ASW operations.

September 1994 Large-scale triservices joint exercise code-named "East Sea No.4" off the Tungshan Island, Fujian province by the East Sea Fleet.

September 1994 Largest and most modern exercise, "Shensheng 94" off the Xiangshan Bay in Zhejiang province by the Navy.

? October 1994 East Sea Fleet combined-arms exercise.

? October 1994 Nanjing MR's GA combined-arms exercise between ground, air, and naval forces—"Donghai No. 4"

Autumn 1994 ? Fleet submarine opposing force exercise. Scenario included an air-sea blockade.

? December 1994 Jian MR's probable GA joint combined-logistics exercise between ground and naval forces. Exercise included use of two civilian roll-on, roll-off vessels. This was reported to be the MR's first reinforced landing exercise.

January-February 1995 Shenyang MR-level combined-arms exercises including motorised ground force long range raids and logistic units conducting large-scale sea transport operations.

March 1995 ? Fleet trans-sea exercise between ground, air and naval forces, including submarine, air raid and amphibious operations.

May 29 1995 ICBM launch from Shanxi.

June 1995 Nanjing MR GA joint combined-arms amphibious exercise.

Mid June 1995 Guanghou MR's GA combined-arms live-fire exercise between ground and naval forces, including island blockade and landing operations.

Summer 1995 Beijing MR-level combined-arms exercise involving trans-regional mobility, counter-assault, anti-landing, and air-to-ground coordinated operations in the Taiheng Mountains, on the Yellow River and in the Bohai Sea.

July 22, 1995 Nanjing MR's probable GA joint combined-arms opposing forces exercise between ground and naval forces, including amphibious landing operations along the coast of Zhejiiang province (near Mazu Islands?).

? July 1995 East Sea Fleet Destroyer Unit in deep sea exercises. It performed nearly 100 major tasks of carrier rocket launching. This unit is one of the first surface naval troops set up by navy.

August 1995 Nanjing MR's GA joint combined-arms live-fire exercise between naval and air forces.

August 15-25, 1995 Joint military exercise in East China Sea near Mazu Islands, 136 km. north of Taiwan by all 3 fleets of the PLAN. Guided missile artillery manoeuvre, naval exercises. F-7 fighters deployed at Fuzhou Air Force Base. Exercise announced after Taiwan President Li Teng-hui said that Taiwan had to consider manufacturing a nuclear weapon.

October 1995 Jinan MR naval forces demonstration. Exercises including naval missile firings and amphibious landings.

October 1995 Guangzhou MR's probable joint combined-arms exercise between ground, naval and air forces. This was a Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT) that included command and control of operations and logistics under high-tech conditions.

End November 1995 Nanjing MR GA joint combined-arms live-fire amphibious exercise between ground, naval and air forces in southern Fujian's Dongshan Islands.

April 2, 1999 Exercise by the North Sea Fleet Air Force units in the Yellow Sea. Live anti-submarine exercise including the use of ship-borne helicopters, patrol craft, and sea planes.

July 1, 1999 60-day first expedition of the "Snow Dragon" to the North Pole captained by Yuan Shaohong. To test the effects of climate changes, ecology, atmosphere, geology, fishing, and marine environment.

? 1999 Nanjing, Guangzhou and Jinan MRs sea-air land units, air-borne units and motorised units exercise. Though small in scale, these exercises were termed "offensive" in nature.

Mid-July, 1999 Nanjing MR held a sea exercise for mobilisation and acquisition of civilian vessels in Quanzhou following Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's remarks on "special state-to-state relations" with China.


1. List of the naval exercises incomplete.

2. "Ships": Composite ships exercise by including more than one type of surface ship.

3. "All": Combined-arms exercise involving surface, underwater, naval, air and ground forces.

4. SS: Submarine (diesel)

5. SSB: Submarine (diesel powered/ballistic missile)

6. SSBN: Submarine (nuclear powered/ballistic missile)

7. DD: Destroyer

8. AOR: Replenishment oiler

9. FF: Frigate

10. FFG: Guided missile frigate

11. DDG: Guided missile destroyer

Sources: Adopted from Han Huaizhi eds., Dangdai Zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo [China Today: The Military Affairs of the Chinese Army] 2 vols. (Beijing: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 1989) vol. 2 pp. 309-H; Chong-pin Lin, "Beijing and Taipei: Dialectics in Post-Tiananmen Interaction," The China Quarterly, no. 136, December 1993 pp. 794-975; Arthur S. Ding, "The PLA's Recent Military Exercises," Issues & Studies, vol. 30, no. 11, November 1994 pp. 123-124; Alexander C. Huang as cited by Ken E. Gause, "China's Policy Towards Taiwan", Jane's Intelligence Review, vol. 7 no. 12, December 1995, p. 566; Dennis J. Blask, "Training Tomorrow's PLA: A Mixed Bag of Tricks," The China Quarterly, no. 146, June 1996, pp. 488-524 (pp. 500-515); FBIS-CHI- (various issues); SWB FE (various issues).

The PLAN has introduced simulated training practices for the naval personnel. In late 1986, the PLAN submitted a work report to the General Staff Department concerning the development of a laser electronic system for simulated tactical exercises. After implementing this measure, in the summer of 1987, the North Sea Fleet conducted a large-scale combined arms military exercise utilising successfully the simulation methods in a short time.52 Subsequently, simulated training exercises were promoted extensively throughout the PLAN for its easy adaptability to veritable environments, cost-effectiveness, scientific inputs, and so on.


Three broad and inter-related issues were discussed in this section-viz., institutionalisation of the naval training programme through naval academia, actual training methods and reform in the latest period, and naval exercises over a period of time. As a part of the modernisation and regularisation, China has witnessed a sea change in its naval training programme. The achievements made in the establishment of the naval schools and institutes for the purpose of formalising training methods are significant. The overall training of the PLAN has improved considerably, qualitatively and quantitatively, in the last five decades, giving rise to a professional naval force. The naval exercises have increased, specially after the launching of the reform process in the late 1970s, raising considerable tension in the region. These naval exercises are also characterised by a geographical shift from coastal to oceanic regions. However, despite these efforts, naval training remains far below the global levels, including in comparison with China's neighbours and adversaries like Japan, Taiwan, India, and so on. Other problems of this programme may also be noted, including reduction in the number of commanding officers and increases in the number of technical officers. The different kinds of equipment—indigenous as well as that acquired from different countries from abroad—have complicated the training programme of the naval personnel. Complaining about a lack of resolve by the naval leadership and inaccurate debugging of the new systems, a candid official admission of the tension inherent in the training programme and the utilisation of different modern naval vessels argued:

Although the officers and seamen had been trained by research institutes and manufactures before and after the new warship was handed over, things were not in step and troubles frequently occurred when the warship was actually put into operation. Faced with the new warship, which was equipped with modern science and technology, the officers and seamen were like children playing firecrackers. They loved it and at the same time were afraid of it. [As a result of the non-utilisation of the new equipment] training in the use of the new equipment remained in the initial stage. [To sum up] Traditions, habits, and inertia played a negative role in their attitude toward the new equipment.53



1. Training of the naval personnel, generally speaking, refers to routine training activities of sailors and cadets. This was imparted in the academia by theoretical exposure or practically on the naval vessels on the sea or rivers as the case may be. However, naval manoeuvres, which became quite frequent in intensity in the recent period, employ military operations with either the enemy naval forces or a contest between a "blue" navy and a "red" navy. See Han Huaizhi eds., Dangdai Zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo [China Today: The Military Affairs of the Chinese Army] 2 vols. (Beijing: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 1989) [hereafter, Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo], vol. 2, pp. 351-365, on manoeuvres as an important component of the PLAN.

2. See Liu Hsiao-hua, "PLA Navy Commander Zhang Lianzhong", Kuang Chiao Ching, January 16, 1996, no. 280, pp. 44-49 translated in FBIS-CHI96-029, February 12, 1996, pp. 26-32 (p. 29) and Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, p. 310.

3. For details see Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, vol. 2, p. 306.

4. See on this aspect, Zhang Aiping et. al eds., Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun [Chinese People's Liberation Army] (Beijing: Contemporary China Publications, 1995), 2 vols. [hereafter Zhongguo renmin jiefangjum] vol. 2, p. 35.

5. One of the first steps mentioned by the Chinese in regularising the naval training programme was "bushu" [deployment] of troops alternatively in combat and training purposes. See, for this phenomenon, Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun, Ibid., vol. 2, p. 35.

6. This is based on the information of Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, vol. 2, p. 307 and Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun, n. 4, vol. 2, p. 35.

7. See, for details, Dangdai zhongguo jundui de gongzuo, n.1, vol. 2, p. 308.

8. The period from 1953-57 was characterised by several attempts to modernise and regularise various branches of the defence sector of China, including the navy. Within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the armed forces, several leaders ventilated these ideas in the wake of the recently concluded Korean War. However, soon these debates and actions were caught in the vortex of the political atmosphere prevalent at this time on the validity of adopting "external" models of army-building and their suitability to the Chinese reality.

9. See on this aspect, Zhongguo renmin jiefangiun, n. 4, vol. 2, p. 36.

10. This is based on Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, vol. 2, p. 36.

11. See for the growth and impact of military academies in China, Srikanth Kondapalli, "Military Academies in China", Strategic Analysis, vol. XXIII, no. 1, April 1999, pp. 27-44.

12. Si Yanwen and Si Changxue, "Large Number of People of Outstanding Ability Perform Meritorious Deeds at Coastal Border: Navy Personnel Construction Gradually Becomes Standardized," Liberation Army Daily October 5, 1994, in FBIS-CHI-94-213, November 3, 1994, pp. 32-33.

13. See, for this estimate, Wilson Lewis & Xue Litai, China's Strategic Seapower: The Politics of Force Modernization in the Nuclear Age (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994) p. 292n

14. See Richard Sharpe, ed., Jane's Fighting Ships 1999-2000 (Surrey: Jane's Information Group, 1999), p. 114.

15. This information is based on US intelligence reports as cited by David G. Muller Jr., China as a Maritime Power (Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1983), pp. 12-13.

16. See, for details, Zhang Zhaozhong, "Our Army is Attaching More and More Importance to Law of War: Sidelights on the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Third Study Course for Naval Officers on Law of Armed Conflicts," Liberation Army Daily, December 9, 1995, p. 3 in FBIS-CHI-96-022 February 1, 1996, pp. 18-19.

17. See Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, vol. 2, p. 309.

18. Si Yanwen and Si Changxue, n. 12.

19. See on this aspect, Zhongguo renmin jiefangium, n. 4, vol. 2, p. 36.

20. See Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n.1, vol. 2, pp. 308-309.

21. See Zhu Hu and Yang Yang, "Destroyer Detachment Party Committee Leads Naval Troops to Work Hard at Modernisation To Realise Surge From Coastal Waters to Deep Sea," Liberation Army Daily, July 28, 1995, p. 1, in FBIS-CHI-95-176, September 12, 1995, pp. 15-16 for details.

22. For details, Si Yanwen and Si Changxue, n. 12.

23. Si Yanwen and Si Changxue, n. 12. It has been estimated that from the launching of the economic reform programme in the late 1970s, nearly 5,000 naval science and technology results have received national-level and armed forces-level awards.

24. See Ta Kung Pao, July 20, 1997 p A4, excerpted in Inside China Mainland, September 1997, pp. 36-37. Figures cited on p. 37.

25. See Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzhuo, n. 1, vol. 2, p. 309 and Zhu Yida ed., Zhonggu renmin jiefangjun junguan shouce: Haijun fence [Chinese People's Liberation Army Officers Manual: Navy Part] (Qingdao Publications, 1991) pp. 607-611.

26. Zhang Lainzhong cited by Liu Hsiao-hua, n. 2, p. 30. See also Liu Huaqing's stress on naval training, "Liu Huaqing Calls for Stronger Navy," Xinhua, May 20, 1996, in FBIS-CHI-96-099, May 21, 1996, p. 35.

27. This is based on Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, vol. 2, p. 312.

28. "Navy Expands Blue-Water Training", Xinhua, Domestic Service, February 18, 1993 in SWB FE/1626 B2/1 March 2, 1993.

29. See n. 28, p. B2/1.

30. This is based on the introduction of the "captain's project "by the East Sea Fleet and as reported by Leng Mou, "Road to Building Crack Units—Chinese Army's Latest Moves," Kuang Chiao Ching, no. 277, October 16, 1995, in SWB FE/2479 G/4-8 (specifically pp. G/6-7)

31. Ibid., pp. G/6-7.

32. See, for the efforts of a naval detachment to train captains since 1990, Huang Caihong and Hu Sheyou's "Newsletter," Xinhua, Domestic Service, September 29, 1994, in FBIS-CHI-94-194, October 6, 1994, pp. 33-34. Among those who were trained also included over 3,000 section chiefs and technical experts.

33. See the account on the contradiction between personnel and advanced equipment and its impact on the performance of naval operations in a certain detachment in the East Sea Fleet, Leng Mou, n. 30, p. G/6

34. See, for details, Ibid.

35. See Wang Guangxin and Shen Chen, "Operational Modes of Submarine Unit Tend to be Varied" Liberation Army Daily, July 5, 1995, p. 2 in FBIS-CHI-95-148, August 2, 1995, p. 27.

36. See for the three transitions in the naval training programme of the surface ships, Zhu Xuewen, "Special Mixed Formation Sails the Oceans," Liberation Army Daily, September 26, 1994, in FBIs-CHI-94-213, November 3, 1994, p. 32.

37. Si Yanwen and Deng Buping, "Closely Approach Modern Naval Action, Widen Thoughts on Training", Liberation Army Daily, October 16, 1994, p. 1 in FBIs-CHI-94-211, November 1, 1994; p. 42, describes the reform of submarine training programme.

38. Si Yanwen and Deng Buping, Ibid., p. 42. In the September 1994 large-scale naval exercises in the Zhoushan Islands, the PLAN, for instance, emphasised tactical coordination in blockades at sea. It indicates that these tactics can be applied to the Taiwan Straits and the Spratly Islands. See, for these exercises, Chang Chun, "China's Navy Stages the Largest Scale Military Exercises in the Zhoushan Islands", Lien Ho Pao, September 16, 1994, p. 1, in FBIS-CHI-94-181, September 19, 1994, pp. 42-43. These exercises stressed confrontations between surface vessels, blockades at sea, landing, aircraft and warship coordination, anti-submarine activities, and logistic support on the open sea, navigation, fuelling, and so on. More than 10,000 officers and men were imparted training in this exercise.

39. See, on this reform, Wang Guangxian and Shen Chen, n. 35.

40. For details on this invention, see Beijing Radio broadcast of May 29, 1993, in FBIS-CHI-93-109, June 9, 1993, p. 24.

41. For efforts in the training of naval aviation units in the early history of the PLAN, see Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, vol. 2, p. 310.

42. Quoted in "On Anti-Submarine Air Operations Exercise," Jianchuan Zhishi, June 4, 1999, pp. 13-14 as translated in FBIS-CHI-99.0702, July 6, 1999, (Internet version). It further added that "to realize a fundamental transformation in combat strength, and to sustain long-term development, we must be brave enough to destroy, to create, and to be pathbreakers. If, because we subjectively fear risk, fear failure, and are unwilling or fear to admit new things, it will be difficult for us to toss aside old things; and conversely, we will tie our hands even more. Hence, only by actively accepting the challenge of new knowledge, new skills, and new equipment will we be able to ascend to the cutting edge of high technology, and stand tall, undefeated in a future battlefield replete with powerful opponents." See also for these exercises, "North China Sea Fleet Conducts Live-Ammunition Drill", Tai Yang Pao, July 25, 1999, p. A17, in SWB FE/3598 G/2-3, July 28, 1999.

43. See for the transformation of naval aviators into naval captains commanding naval ships, Shi Changxue and Yuan Huazhi, "First Batch of Navy's Fine Aviators Become Captains on Vessels Through Professional Training and Practice," Liberation Army Daily, August 12, 1995 in FBIS-CHI-95-206, October 25, 1995, p. 35.

44. For details, "News and Press Reviews" programme of the Beijing Radio broadcast, November 30, 1995, in FBIS-CHI-95-233, December 5, 1995, p. 39.

45. See n. 42.

46. See Liu Hsia-hua, n. 2, p. 29.

47. See Xinhua, Domestic Service report on blue-water training, n. 28, p. B2/1.

48. Bradley Hahn, "Third Ranking Power-and Growing," Pacific Defence Reporter, vol. XV, no. 4, October 1988, pp. 46-49 (p. 49) and 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 (p. 195)

49. For details, Chen Youyuan and Su Ruozhou, "Optimistic Trend in the All-Army Military Training", Liberation Army Daily, October 8, 1995, in FBIS-CHI-95-223, November 20, 1995, pp. 55-57 (pp. 55-56) for details on the annual training tasks set by the PLAN.

50. This is based on the news item, "Naval Reservists Complete Long Training Cruise," Xinhua, July 31, 1999, in SWB FB/3603/G5, August 3, 1999.

51. All the above figures about the naval exercises are from Dangdai zhongguo jundui de junshi gongzuo, n. 1, vol. 2, pp. 309-311.

52. See Liu Hsiao-hua, n. 2, p. 30, for these exercises.

53. Yang Dechang and Jiang Yonghong, "When Modernization Really Comes", Liberation Army Daily, July 29, 1993, in FBIS-CHI-93-154, August 12, 1993, pp. 19-21 (p. 20 for the quotation).