«I formulated China´s naval strategy question»

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From the memoirs of Liu Huaqing (劉華清), excerpts published by Xinhua Wenzhai

source: Xinhua Wenzhai, July 2005, page 95 - 97
posted: 2005-09-02
Translator´s Remarks
This is an article from the July Edition of Xinhua Wenzhai. My translation may contain some errors, and I am grateful for any hints, advice, and corrections.

The Xinhua Wenzhai edited exerpts from Gen. Liu´s memoirs begin with some Xinhua Wenzhai EDITORS REMARKS.

EDITORS REMARKS. This is a text from chapter 16 of the memoirs of comrade Liu Huaqing, permanent member of the polit bureau of the central committee of the Communist Party, deputy chairman of the Central Defence Commission [Central Defense Commission] - "Serving as a Navy Commander". The author recollects how he formulated the need for a strategy of the People's Liberation Army's navy while serving as a commander, and he authoritatively describes the foundations of the new era's strategy, its intentions, and its importance. The author has agreed to the abbreviations and editing of his text for this article. The title was added by the editor.

As our navy's development lacked a comprehensive "naval strategy", I first officially formulated China's "naval strategy" question at the end of 1985. On August 28, 1982, I was appointed the navy's commander. Until the end of 1985, I had for the first tme officially formulated this question. At that time, I had been commander for more than three years, and had reflected a lot upon naval building and development. For the first year and longer, I went to many units, thouroughly examining and researching, and the situation I saw made me think. I noted, in particular, that that teaching the old guiding principles of strategy wasn't enough. During training, organizing military strength, developing talents, military equipment and battleground building etc., many problems occurred, causing a lot of losses that shouldn't happen.

These problems could be seen as results of lacking experience, which were hard to avoid during the development of China's navy, but compared with naval development worldwide, our navy lacked a comprehensive "naval strategy". This strategy had to have long-term vision and a broad perspective, able to offer, in the long run, macroscopic guidance for the establishment and fesasible war technology of the navy.

For that, I formed research groups. By studying world military history you can see that, in the past, in a correspondingly long time, navies took part in military action on the seas or in coastal waters, but only as subordinate forces to territorial army strategies. A concept of naval strategy hadn't yet taken shape. But during the course of the development of sea warfare, the navies, one by one, became able to pursue military tasks on their own - naval strategies came into being at the opportune moments. Some Western military people wrote a lot of special articles, concerning naval war. In 1890, the American Alfred Mahan's [Alfred Thayer Mahan] "The Influence of Sea Power upon History" is particularly representative. This book systematically deals with thoughts of naval power and naval strategy theories: the prosperity and wealth is linked to the seas; and sea power has an enormous role to play in a nation's progress. The ZHU XING of sea power generally includes times of peace, and times of war. In the first case, it helps a country to develop foreign trade and commercial sea transport by controlling the seas. In the latter case, it helps to use military power to control the shipping lines, to achieve war goals, etc.. These naval strategy theories proved highly influential to the navies of Britain, the United States, and other countries. Not only did they safeguard those countries' rights and interests on the seas, but they also provided theoretical weapons for expansionism and naval hegemony.

It is sad that China, for several centuries, had a history of "sea bans". These new naval strategy theories were kept outdoor and had no real influence on China. Before the JIA WU war between China and Japan, the Qing Dynasty's navy was one of the first ranking of the world, but because of feudal rule, conservatism and corruption, and because of missing guiding principles for naval strategies and backward military thought, one sea battle after the other was lost. Reversely, this highlights the importance of a naval strategy.

Early in August 1983, when I hadn´t yet served on my new post for a year, I held a meeting on naval warfare for the first time. Before that, there had only been two such successive military meetings that really mattered. They had defined strategic policies and the main tasks for each branch of the services, at the initial stages. In general, there was a set of fundamental policies for military planning, and a defined direction to move to. At the first meeting, several teachers had pointed out that establishing a strategic policy and its concretization was of cardinal importance for the military forces. Strategic policies and concretization meant that battlegrounds had to be researched one by one, and that the interdependences between strategy, military campaigns and tactics had to be solved correctly.
But soon after my appointment I discovered that during the four years since 1978, the Navy hadn´t held many meetings, and that Comrade Deng Xiaoping´s instructions concerning naval work hadn´t been considered and implemented, either. I was very surprised. The role of a military is to be prepared for war. I studied the essence of Comrade Deng´s instructions for the building of the Navy repeatedly, made best use of the time, inspected many units. For the Navy´s future problems, I did surveys and thought deeply, and a sketchy draft of "naval strategy" started taking shape.
At the naval warfare meeting, I discussed several future questions.

I said that, first of all, we had to understand the situation clearly, and to strengthen military planning. From the overall global situation, one could see that more big world wars were unlikely to happen in the near future. But the international situation remained volatile, contradictions and strife dominated the scene, old crises hadn´t been resolved, new ones were in the pipeline, risks of war continued to exist, and local wars were continuing. In accordance with the central strategy plans, we had to use our time to do our planning, and to get ready for responding to any situation at any time.
Back then, there were people who thought that defence appropriations could be reduced, that war wasn´t on the cards, and that we didn´t need to hurry with our planning.
I criticized this wrong position. Also, i stated my opinion as to if we needed to formulate naval policies, which navy principles had to be held, which areas of the seas had to be defined, and what naval warfare should look like.

As for the policy, there were two opinions at the time. Some said that the Center had already defined an active defence strategy policy and strategic thought. This refers to a comprehensively operated war, suitable for any battlefield, with sea warfare being no exception to this comprehensive war. They said there was no need for a special naval policy.
Others said that sea warfare had special characteristics of its own and needed its own policy.
I was more inclined towards the latter point of view and asked everyone to continue their research.

More than two months later, the Navy held a high-level study group. On this meeting, I delivered a speech titled Some questions regarding the implementation of active warfare policy. Once again, I emphasized the policy question and summed it down to "an active defence strategy, coastal waters warfare"
In the process of implementing this policy, a real problem was as to come to a general concept of the term coastal waters. Before, the Navy had called the seas within 200 sea miles off the coast "coastal waters". I made it clear that I wanted a common understanding of what coastal waters should mean, in accordance with Comrade Xiao Ping´s instructions.
"Coastal Waters" are our country´s Yellow Sea, Eastern Sea [East China Sea], the Southern Sea [South China Sea], the Nansha Archipelago and Taiwan, the seas on this and that side of Okinawa, as well as the Northern region of the Pacific Ocean. All outside these coastal waters was "medium and far seas".

In July 1984, in a discussion of navy academy education reform, I said that according to the warfare objectives, the national military strategy and naval warfare tasks, we should introduce everything useful from foreign military thought, improve naval tactics and told the Navy Academy to include American and Soviet naval theory in their analysis.
After this, a rought draft for a "naval strategy" continuously took shape. At the time, I read a research paper from the State Council´s Foreign Affairs Research Institute. It said that our country wasn´t only continental, but had to look seawards, too. It was time to decide if the Navy was a strategic branch of the services. I agreed with this view, and I really applauded this line from the report:

«Our country was the first to invent the compass, and with this endless coastal line and such a long naval history, gifted with the natural role of being a sea power, its navy should surely be a strategic military branch. It is wrong to believe that only imperialism´s strife for supremacy needs a strategic role for its fleets, and that Socialist China, as it is not seeking supremacy, needs no navy capable of strategic tasks. On the contrary, seeking friendship, promoting cultural and commercial exchange, we especially need to establish a strong Navy. We have already wasted too much time. It is time to tackle the implementation of this old dream.»
In 1985, the Central Committee and the State Council decided that a long-term building and development plan had to be defined. Our military had to switch from wartime condition to concepts for times of peace. For that, it was urgent to strengthen macroscopic leadership. At the time, the Navy´s JINGJIAN consolidation and reforms had achieved some initial success. Military science, contemporary and recent Chinese and foreign naval development history had enriched our military thought. In this situation, I thought that the time was ripe for formulating a "naval strategy". I suggested that the Communist Party´s Naval Committee should devote itself to exploring such strategies.

At the end of 1985, I officially stated the Coastal Waters Defence Naval Strategy for the first time. Then, the Navy held an explorative simulated exercise. We went through eight days of theoretical discussion and real-life conclusions, explored new concepts of naval warfare for the future, new methods, how to prepare for entire naval battlefields, combat capabilities, military action, how to switch the Navy into a wartime condition, etc.. It was a very substantial exploration.

On December 20, at the concluding session of the exercise, I discussed naval strategy ideas, and three of its questions:

-- Why did we have to define a strategy?
-- How should a naval strategy be understood?
-- What were the contents of our country´s "Naval Strategy"?

I once again explained Chairman Deng´s important instructions on naval warfare and naval construction, I pointed out that the Navy hadn´t yet defined naval strategic thought nor, by this, guided naval construction and development. It was necessary to build a navy, to protect the country´s naval interests, to define a correct naval strategy, based on the thought of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping on developing the Navy.

This is a translation of the first half of the article.

External links about this topic
Janes Intelligence Review images of Hainan Sanya submarine base
telegraph.co.uk, May 06, 2007

China´s military expansion
BBC News documentary, October 2007

Chinese strategic Power: the objective of preservation, or total warfare?
Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Winter 2006/07

Robert D. Kaplan: "Our current dominance in the Pacific will not last"
Why US policies across the Pacific are (and may remain) pragmatic
The Atlantic Online, June 2005

 It´s only a shopping spree
 US navy sailors visiting Hong Kong, February 2000

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