The top engineer with the key to China’s dream of having the world’s most powerful navy

Almost every research topic Rear Admiral Ma Weiming has studied in recent years has resulted in actual equipment on Chinese warships, his colleague says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 11:53am

Top naval engineer Ma Weiming, who has led work on a hi-tech launch system for future Chinese aircraft carriers and a quieter propulsion system for China’s nuclear submarines, has been nominated for the People’s Liberation Army’s top military award.

Dubbed the father of China’s electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), Rear Admiral Ma describes himself as a “teacher without any dreams”.

He is one of 17 nominees for 10 Order of August 1 awards to be presented by President Xi Jinping on August 1, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army, the PLA’s precursor.

The other nominees, drawn from the ranks of the PLA, armed police force and public security forces, include Shenzhou XI commander Jing Haipeng, the only Chinese astronaut to venture into space three times.

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The Order of August 1 was first presented by Communist Party leader Mao Zedong in 1955, with officers who fought in the anti-Japanese war, civil war and Korean war being recognised. But it went into abeyance after that and was only revived 60 years later, in 2015, with this year’s recipients to be the first of the new batch.

Ma, who hails from Yangzhou in Jiangsu, graduated from the PLA Naval University of Engineering in Wuhan, Hubei, in 1987 and elected to teach there. He earned a PhD in electrical engineering from Tsinghua University in 1996 and went on to become the country’s youngest engineering academician five years later.

A specialist in maritime propulsion, electrical engineering and related fields, Ma has cultivated more than 400 masters and doctoral students at the naval university since the late 1980s.

Rear Admiral Liu Dezhi, a colleague at the university, described Ma, 57, as a workaholic and master problem-solver. He said Ma would work around the clock and pull out all stops to tackle obstacles when targeted on a project.

“Almost every research topic we’ve studied in recent years has been turned into actual equipment on our navy’s warships,” Liu told China Central Television in May. “That’s made me admire his judgment very much.”

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Ma and members of his team have ­frequently been recognised for their work in ­recent years amid the country’s military modernisation, with more resources pouring into the research and ­development of weaponry.

Ma has won the National Science and Technology Progress Award twice and in 2015 also won the science and technology achievement prize of the Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation, a Hong Kong-based non-government organisation.