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Liu Huaqing, Chinese naval commander, dies at 95

Liu Liu Huaqing, the father of the modern Chinese navy, died Friday of an undisclosed illness at age 95, state broadcaster CCTV said from Beijing. No other details were given.

Liu commanded the People's Liberation Army Navy from 1982 to 1988 and is credited with revitalizing a coastal patrol force and setting it on course to becoming a powerful navy.

As commander, he laid out a strategy of building an offshore navy capacity by 2000 and a true blue-water navy able to operate far from home ports by 2050. That included the concept of a first, second and third line of island chains through which the navy would gradually expand operations eastward into the Pacific toward Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam and eventually Australia.

Accomplishing that goal requires the addition of modern submarines, surface ships and naval aircraft, and the Chinese navy has received lavish budget increases each year to acquire new equipment. China now has the largest navy in Asia, although it remains far behind the U.S. Navy in most respects.

Liu joined the Communist Party in 1935 and served with the People's Liberation Army throughout the struggle against Japan and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists. Following the Communist victory in 1949, he was sent to the then-Soviet Union for schooling before being assigned to command units in the fledgling navy.

In his later years, he rose to the position of vice chairman of the party and served on its Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of Chinese political power.

"Comrade Liu Huaqing was an excellent party member, a faithful Communist fighter, outstanding proletarian, politician, soldier, and outstanding leader of the state and party," CCTV said in its official obituary broadcast on the evening national news.

Liu lived through many of the seminal events of the party's history, including the 1934-35 Long March that saved the party from annihilation by Chiang's troops and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution that saw many party elders persecuted by radical Red Guard.

Liu remained active through the mid-1990s and appeared in uniform at 2007 commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army, held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Liu Huaqing in 1996. Credit: Associated Press

 
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