China’s former military leader Zhang Zhen dies at 101, as Beijing celebrates war he helped win

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 September, 2015, 10:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 September, 2015, 10:51pm

China’s former military leader Zhang Zhen died at age 101 in Beijing on Thursday, as the nation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war.

State broadcaster CCTV on Friday confirmed that Zhang – who had fought against the Japanese invasion – had died at about 5pm. He had been suffering an undisclosed illness.

CCTV described Zhang as a “tested and loyal Communist warrior” and an exemplary leader of the PLA.

Zhang was appointed Lieutenant General in 1955, when the Communist Party appointed its first batch of generals. He was the last survivor of that batch.He reached the rank of General in 1988.

Zhang, also know as Zhang Jiansheng, served as the vice-chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission from 1992 to 1997 under then president Jiang Zemin.

The military strongman was a close associate of former leader Deng Xiaoping.

Even in the 1990s, when Zhang was in his 80s, he had been a hardliner on cross-strait ties, criticising Jiang for being too soft on Taiwan and the United States and advocating a show of strength against the island to intimidate any forces seeking independence.

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In 1997, at age 83, he retired as vice-chairman of the CMC, which at that time oversaw a three-million-strong People’s Liberation Army.

According to Beijing Youth Daily, three of Zhang’s sons reached the rank of Major General, while his third son Zhang Haiyang reached the rank of General before retiring this year as the political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps.

Zhang, a Hunan native, joined the Communist Youth League in May 1930 and became a Communist Party member in October the same year.