Father of China's modern navy dies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 January, 2011, 12:00am

Liu Huaqing, an influential party elder and founder of the country's modern navy, died yesterday. He was 95.

The general, who championed the nation's blue water navy fleets, died in a hospital in Beijing, China Central Television said yesterday.

A close ally of Deng Xiaoping , Liu (pictured) had played an important role in modern politics as he was entrusted by the late paramount leader to support the government headed by former president Jiang Zemin in the post-1989 reshuffle, when Deng stepped down as chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC).

Born in 1916 in Dawu, Hubei province, Liu joined the Communist Youth League in 1929, and the army a year later. He became a member of the Communist Party in 1935.

After serving as a political commissar in Hebei province, Liu left in the 1950s for the former Soviet Union for naval training. On returning, he was appointed to a number of senior government and navy posts.

In 1992, Liu was named a vice-chairman of the CMC when Deng retired. He was said to have been ordered to help Jiang run the three-million strong People's Liberation Army.

The promotion was believed also to counter the influence of then president Yang Shangkun , another vice-chairman of CMC.

At the 14th party congress in 1992, Deng ordered Liu and General Zhang Zhen, another CMC vice-chairman, to support Jiang, the first leader to head the party, state and army without military credentials.

Liu was also appointed to the all-powerful Politburo's standing committee, the highest party position for any serving military officer.

He was the PLA's navy chief from 1982 to 1988. During his tenure, he supported plans for a blue water, or deep sea, navy in 1985.

As navy chief, he formulated the 'offshore defence strategy', which remains the doctrinal cornerstone of the force. He also advocated building aircraft carriers, although the dream has yet to be realised.

Liu retired from the party and army in 1997.