March 10, 2016 | Commentary on Pacific Ocean, China, China Military Modernization

Admiral Xiao's Influence and Beyond

Admiral Xiao Jinguang was the first commander of the PRC’s navy. He was in charge of the Navy from 1950 to 1980–a period even longer than Sergei Gorshkov (1956-1985). Xiao survived various purges, the machinations of Lin Biao (before Lin himself fell from power), and the Cultural Revolution. At one point, he was attacked, and Mao himself defended him, declaring that, so long as he was alive, no one else would run the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). This despite being a ground forces general during the Chinese Civil War. Also, despite being a ground pounder, Xiao founded the Dalian naval academy, one of the key naval professional military education institutions, and also helped run the program that developed China’s first nuclear submarine.

While much has been made of Liu Huaqing as China’s answer to Mahan (Liu spent more time actually in the navy, and also propounded China building aircraft carriers), one wonders what impact Xiao had?

 - Dean Cheng is the senior research fellow for Chinese political and security affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

 - This piece originally appeared in War on the Rocks and can be viewed in full at

About the Author

Dean Cheng Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center
Asian Studies Center

Originally appeared in War on the Rocks