Liu Bocheng

Liu Bocheng

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Liu Bocheng was a Chinese Communist
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 military commander and Marshal
Marshal
Marshal , is a word used in several official titles of various branches of society. The word is an ancient loan word from Old French, cf...

 of the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

.

Liu is known as one of the "Three and A Half" Strategists of China in modern history. (The other two are Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

, commander of the CPC, and Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 commander Bai Chongxi
Bai Chongxi
Bai Chongxi , , also spelled Pai Chung-hsi, was a Chinese general in the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China and a prominent Chinese Nationalist Muslim leader. He was of Hui ethnicity and of the Muslim faith...

, and the half refers to CPC commander Su Yu
Su Yu
Su Yu was a Chinese Communist military leader. He was considered by many to be among the best commanders of the PLA only next to Lin Biao and Liu Bocheng. Su Yu fought in the Sino-Japanese War and in the Chinese Civil War...

.) Officially, Liu was recognised as a revolutionary, military strategist and theoretician, and one of the founders of the People's Liberation Army. Liu's nicknames, Chinese Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 
and The One-eyed Dragon, also reflect his character and military achievement.

Early life


Liu was born to a peasant family in Kaixian, Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

. Although he grew up in poverty, Liu made a determined effort in his studies and gained good grades at school. Influenced by the revolutionary theories of Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese doctor, revolutionary and political leader. As the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is frequently referred to as the "Father of the Nation" , a view agreed upon by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China...

, he later decided to dedicate himself to the cause of establishing a democratic and modern China.

In 1911, Liu joined the Boy Scouts
Scouting in Mainland China
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China by the Communist Party in 1949, Scouting has officially been banned, while the Young Pioneers of China and the Communist Youth League have become the dominant youth organization in mainland China for younger and older youth, respectively...

 in support of the Xinhai Revolution
Xinhai Revolution
The Xinhai Revolution or Hsinhai Revolution, also known as Revolution of 1911 or the Chinese Revolution, was a revolution that overthrew China's last imperial dynasty, the Qing , and established the Republic of China...

. In the following year, he enrolled in the Chongqing
Chongqing
Chongqing is a major city in Southwest China and one of the five national central cities of China. Administratively, it is one of the PRC's four direct-controlled municipalities , and the only such municipality in inland China.The municipality was created on 14 March 1997, succeeding the...

 Military Academy and later joined the army against Yuan Shikai
Yuan Shikai
Yuan Shikai was an important Chinese general and politician famous for his influence during the late Qing Dynasty, his role in the events leading up to the abdication of the last Qing Emperor of China, his autocratic rule as the second President of the Republic of China , and his short-lived...

, who was planning to undermine the Xinhai Revolution and proclaim himself Emperor. In 1914, Liu joined Sun Yat-sen's party and gained extensive military experience, starting out as a company commander, then as chief of staff of a brigade, later attaining the rank of colonel. In 1916, he lost his right eye in a battle for Fengdu county, Sichuan.

In 1923, during a war against the warlord Wu Peifu
Wu Peifu
Wu Peifu or Wu P'ei-fu , was a major figure in the struggles between the warlords who dominated Republican China from 1916 to 1927.- Early career :...

, in response to the Northern Expedition of the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

, Liu was appointed commander of the Eastern Route, and later was promoted to commanding general in Sichuan. Liu displayed his military talent in battles against various warlords. Zhu De
Zhu De
Zhu De was a Chinese militarist, politician, revolutionary, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Communist Party. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, in 1955 Zhu became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the founder.-Early...

, who worked under Long Yun
Long Yun
Long Yun was governor and warlord of the Chinese province of Yunnan from 1927 to near the end of the Chinese Civil War, when he was overthrown in a coup by Du Yuming under the order of Chiang Kai-shek in October, 1945.-Life:Long Yun was an sinicized ethnic Yi , a non Han Chinese people native to...

, a Yunnan
Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

 warlord at the time, was also defeated by Liu in a close battle.

In the same year, Liu became acquainted with Yang Angong (杨闇公, the elder brother of Yang Shangkun
Yang Shangkun
Yang Shangkun was President of the People's Republic of China from 1988 to 1993, and was permanent Vice-chair of the Central Military Commission...

) and Wu Yuzhang
Wu Yuzhang
Wu Yuzhang was a Chinese politician and educationist, President of Renmin University of China from 1950 to 1966.-Biography:...

 (吴玉章), who were amongst the earliest Communists of Sichuan. Their relationship marked Liu's first real exposure to the theory and practice of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. In May 1926, Liu joined the CPC and was appointed military commissioner of Chongqing. In December 1926, along with Zhu De and Yang, Liu masterminded the Luzhou and Nanchong uprising, fought against local warlords, while supporting the Northern Expedition. In 1927, Liu was appointed army corps commander of the 15th Temporarily Organized National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

. It was during this time that Liu witnessed the split between the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 and the CPC. Showing unswerving loyalty to the CPC, Liu led the Nanchang Uprising
Nanchang Uprising
The Nanchang Uprising was the first major Kuomintang-Communist engagement of the Chinese Civil War, in order to counter the anti-communist purges by the Nationalist Party of China....

 together with Zhu De, He Long
He Long
He Long was a Chinese military leader. He rose to the rank of Marshal and Vice Premier after the founding of the People's Republic of China.-Early life:He Long was a member of the Tujia ethnic group...

, Ye Ting
Ye Ting
Ye Ting , born in Huiyang, Guangdong, was a Chinese military leader. He started out nationalist and went to the communists....

, Li Lisan
Li Lisan
Lǐ Lìsān was an early leader of the Chinese communists, and the top leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1928 to 1930, member of Polit Bureau, and later member of Central Committee.-Early years:...

 and Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, effectively declaring war on the KMT.

During this uprising, Liu was appointed chief of staff of the newly born Chinese Red Army. However, lack of experience and preparation resulted in a swift defeat by the KMT force. Liu became a fugitive.

In the winter of 1927, Liu was sent to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 by the CPC to study military strategies and tactics. At first, Liu pursued his studies at a military academy in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, but was soon transferred to the more prestigious Frunze Military Academy for regular training in military strategies and tactics. A man known for perseverance, Liu quickly mastered the Russian language, considered complicated by many non-Russian speakers, and went on to become the first Chinese translator of Russian military theoretic works. Later on, Liu was invited to give a lecture on the subject at the 6th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party which was held in Moscow.

Commander of the CPC Army


In the summer of 1930, Liu was sent back to China and was appointed as commissioner of the Central Military Committee of the CPC as well as Military Secretary of the Yangtze River
Yangtze River
The Yangtze, Yangzi or Cháng Jiāng is the longest river in Asia, and the third-longest in the world. It flows for from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the...

 division of the CPC. In December 1930, Liu went to Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 to assist Zhou Enlai in the daily administration of CPC military affairs.

In 1931, the CPC suffered great losses in several major cities and was forced to retreat to the countryside. Liu was sent to the Central Soviet Territory, the CPC’s power base in Jiangxi
Jiangxi-Fujian Soviet
The Jiangxi–Fujian Soviet was the largest component territory of the Chinese Soviet Republic , an unrecognized state established in November 1931 by Mao Zedong and Zhu De during the Chinese civil war...

. In January 1932, Liu was appointed president and commissar of the Red Army Military Academy. By October he was promoted to Chief of Staff of the Red Army, assisting Zhu De and Zhou in the war against Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

’s 4th Suppression on the Central Soviet Territory.

At the time, the CPC was under the reign of members of the 28 Bolsheviks
28 Bolsheviks
The 28 Bolsheviks were a group of Chinese students who studied at the Moscow Sun Yat-sen University from the late 1920s until early 1935, also known as the "Returned Students". The university was founded in 1925 as a result of Kuomintang's founder Sun Yat-Sen's policy of alliance with the Soviet...

, including Bo Gu and Zhang Wentian
Zhang Wentian
Zhang Wentian . He is also known as Luo Fu . His names in Wade-Giles are Chang Wen-t'ien and Lo Fu.Born in Jiangsu, he attended engineering school in Nanjing and also spent a year at the University of California. He later joined the Communist Party and was sent to study at Sun Yat-sen University...

, and Otto Braun
Otto Braun (Li De)
Otto Braun was a German Communist with a long and varied career.His most significant role was as a Comintern agent sent to China in 1934, to advise the Communist Party of China on military strategy during the Chinese Civil War...

 (also known by his Chinese name, Li De), the Military Advisor of Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

, took control of military command. All three were educated in Moscow, and Liu found common ground with these young men. Liu agreed with their opinion of regular battle by laying siege instead of bushfighting, which led to a clash with other military leaders such as Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 and Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai was a prominent military leader of the Communist Party of China, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese civil war and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army in the Korean War...

. Peng led his troops during the siege of Guangchang under the orders of Bo and Li De, which resulted in the troops suffering heavy casualties due to inferior weaponry and resources. Outspoken and bad-tempered Peng was furious, and in direct conflict with Liu.

However, Liu soon turned to Mao’s camp when he found Bo and Braun’s methods to be unpractical and extreme. In the Red Army’s endeavour against the KMT's Fifth Encirclement Campaign
Fifth Encirclement Campaign
The Fifth Encirclement Campaign is an abbreviated name used for several different encirclement campaigns launched by the Nationalist Government with the goal of destroying the developing Chinese Red Army and its communist bases in several separate locations in China during the early stage of...

, Liu was demoted to Chief of Staff of the 5th Field Army following his dissidence with Bo and Braun. Bo and Braun led by way of doctrine and extremism, and the Red Army waged a face-to-face general war against the better-equipped and larger KMT army. Failure was inevitable; the CPC had to retreat from its territory to seek refuge, marking the beginning of the Long March
Long March
The Long March was a massive military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south...

.

During the Long March, near the end of 1934, Liu was reappointed as Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army and commander of Central Column, which consisted of the majority of the CPC senior leaders, such as Bo, Braun, Zhou and Mao. Liu led the army across the Wu River and took control of Zunyi
Zunyi
Zunyi is a prefecture-level city in Guizhou province in southwestern China. Along with Guiyang and Liupanshui, it is one of the most important cities of the province...

, a county of Guizhou
Guizhou
' is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the southwestern part of the country. Its provincial capital city is Guiyang.- History :...

 province. It was in this small city that the famous Zunyi Conference
Zunyi Conference
The Zunyi Conference was a meeting of the Communist Party of China in January of 1935 during the Long March. This meeting involved a power struggle between the leadership of Bo Gu and Otto Braun and the opposition led by Mao Zedong. The result was that Mao left the meeting in position to take...

 was held in January 1935. During this conference, Liu and most of the attendees showed their support for Mao.

As a result of this conference, Bo, who was then Braun’s command in military, was replaced by a new three-man team consisting of Mao, Zhou and Wang Jiaxiang
Wang Jiaxiang
Wang Jiaxiang , one of the senior leaders of the Communist Party of China in its early stage and a member of the 28 Bolsheviks, with his life of up and down indicating the cruel reality of politics.-Biography:...

. Later on, Liu assisted Mao and Zhu across the Red Water River four times. Liu himself led troops in the takeover of the Jiaopin ferry, securing the route across the Jinsha River
Jinsha River
Jinsha River is the westernmost of the major headwater streams of the Yangtze River, southwestern China.Its headwaters rise in the Wulan and Kekexili ranges in western Qinghai province, to the south of the Kunlun Mountains, and on the northern slope of the Tanggula Mountains on the border of the...

 for the major troops. In May, Liu was appointed commander of avant-courier army and worked with commissar Nie Rongzhen
Nie Rongzhen
Nie Rongzhen was a prominent Chinese Communist military leader, and one of ten Marshals in the People's Liberation Army of China. He was the last surviving PLA officer with the rank of Marshal.-Biography:...

 on securing the route for the remaining troops. When his army entered the ethnic settlement areas, Liu pledged brotherhood with a chieftain of the local Yi
Yi people
The Yi or Lolo people are an ethnic group in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Numbering 8 million, they are the seventh largest of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China...

 ethnicity, which significantly reduced the minorities’ hostility towards the CPC. Liu then led the 1st Division of the Red Army across the Dadu River
Dadu River
The Dadu River , a tributary of the Min, also known as the Tatu River, is located in the Sichuan province of China. The river is noted for being crossed by the Luding Bridge, a historically important bridge...

, where Chiang
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 plotted to have the CPC armies annihilated, in the same manner as Shi Dakai
Shi Dakai
Shi Dakai , born in Guigang, Guangxi, also known as Wing King or phonetically translated as E-Wang, was one of the most highly acclaimed leaders in the Taiping Rebellion and a poet....

 and his army’s road to perdition almost a century before.

When Mao's 1st Red Army later united with Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao
Zhang Guotao was a founding member and important leader of the Chinese Communist Party and bitter rival to Mao Zedong. During the 1920s he studied in the Soviet Union and became a key contact with the Comintern and organized the CCP labor movement in the United Front with the Guomindang...

’s 4th Red Army, Liu stayed Chief of Staff. During a dispute between Mao and Zhang over major issues, which led to their later split, Liu maintained his support for Mao. By the time they reached Yan'an
Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

, it was obvious that Mao was the winner.

War with Japan



In 1936, after the Xian Incident, Chiang agreed to set up an alliance with the CPC in the fight against Japanese invaders. On July 7, 1937, after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident
Marco Polo Bridge Incident
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident was a battle between the Republic of China's National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army, often used as the marker for the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War .The eleven-arch granite bridge, Lugouqiao, is an architecturally significant structure,...

, general war between China and Japan broke out. Under the agreement with Chiang, CPC armies were reorganised into 8th Route Army, and Liu was appointed commander of the 129th Division, one of its three divisions. It was then that he began his long cooperation with Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

, his commissar at that time.

According to the orthodox record of the CCP, their cooperation and friendship lasted more than five decades. Their respective military and political talents complemented the other's perfectly, and there was a very high level of trust between them. They were said to have formed a perfect pair.

However, their true relationship might not have been as close as it seemed. Firstly, Mao distrusted most of his generals, and sent his associates out as commissars to supervise these generals. Deng, who was Mao’s close associate from 1930’s when he worked in Jiangxi, was sent out for Liu, and Luo Ronghuan for Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

. Secondly, in contrast to Liu's role as a professional soldier, Deng was a political activist and knew little about the military. Their personalities and personal lives were vastly different, which might have posed a barrier to their becoming true friends.

Liu, Deng and Deputy Commander Xu Xiangqian
Xu Xiangqian
Xu Xiangqian was a Chinese communist military leader.-Biography:Xu was born in Wutai county, Shanxi province, China. He was admitted to the Whampoa Academy in 1924 and held various officer ranks in the National Revolutionary Army between 1925 and 1927...

 led their troops to Shanxi
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

, and carried out bushfighting around Taihang Mountain. After rounds of successful battles against the Japanese army, they set up the Jinjiyu Base Area (晋冀豫抗日根据地) which consisted of parts of Shanxi
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

, Hebei
Hebei
' is a province of the People's Republic of China in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "" , named after Ji Province, a Han Dynasty province that included what is now southern Hebei...

 and Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

. In 1940, Liu led his division in the Hundred Regiments Campaign, a major campaign led by Peng to breach the blockage on CPC base areas enforced by Japanese forces under the command of General Okamura Yasuji
Yasuji Okamura
- Notes :...

 (岗村宁次). At the same time, Liu integrated regular forces with militia, using frontal attack and bushfighting to frustrate the Japanese army’s suppression and clean-out efforts. The Japanese were so irritated that they sent agents to assassinate Liu. Although their mission was a failure, they did succeed in murdering Liu’s first daughter when she was kept in kindergarten. The Japanese thought that this revenge might distract Liu, but they underestimated Liu’s willpower. His heightened loathing for the Japanese gave him more courage under fire and more inspiration in command.

In 1943, Liu was called back to Yan'an for Zheng Feng. He pledged his allegiance to Mao and supported Mao’s power struggle with Wang Ming
Wang Ming
Wang Ming was a senior leader of the early Chinese Communist Party and the mastermind of the famous 28 Bolsheviks group. Wang was also a major political rival of Mao Zedong during the 1930s, opposing Mao's nationalist deviation from the Comintern and orthodox Marxism and Leninism lines...

. On the contrary, Peng stood by Wang and as a result fell out of favour with Mao. This was an indication of Liu's prudence in politics as well. (Despite this, Liu was still labelled a dogmatist for pursuing his studies in Russia, and he had to make a public apology against his will in 1959.) In 1945, Liu attended the 7th National Congress of the CPC in Yan'an, and prepared the counterattack against the Japanese and the forthcoming civil war with KMT armies.

Chinese Civil War


At the end of the war against the Japanese, the war-scourged Chinese people pleaded for peace. Chiang then invited Mao to Chongqing for peace talks, during which, Yan Xishan
Yan Xishan
Yan Xishan, was a Chinese warlord who served in the government of the Republic of China. Yan effectively controlled the province of Shanxi from the 1911 Xinhai Revolution to the 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War...

 sent his armies to attack CPC territories in Shanxi under Chiang's authorisation. Liu and Deng led the Shangdang Campaign
Shangdang Campaign
The Shangdang Campaign was a series battles fought between the Communist force under the leadership of Liu Bocheng and the nationalist Yan Xishan’s Kuomintang force. The Campaign lasted from September 10, 1945, through October 12, 1945...

 and defeated 13 divisions of Yan’s troops totaled more than 35,000, and then headed east and annihilated another of Yan's army corps in the Handan Campaign
Handan Campaign
Handan Campaign , also known as Pinghan Campaign , short for Beiping-Hankou Campaign , is one of the largest clashes between the communist force and the nationalist force immediately after the end of World War II, which resulted in communist victory.-Nationalist Strategy:During the Shangdang...

. These two campaigns were the first experiences of the CPC army's shift from bushfight to campaign in movement, and proved to be valuable practice for the army groups campaign of CPC armies. They assisted in the CPC’s quick occupation of Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

, and won advantageous status for Mao and his peace talk delegation in Chongqing. Under immense pressure, Chiang was forced to sign a peace agreement with Mao in October 1945.

The peace, however, was fragile, and civil war broke out in 1946. Liu and Deng led several campaigns in movement, undermining the strategic attack of KMT armies. In 1947, when the territories controlled by the CPC could no longer sustain so many troops, Mao decided to send part of his army to the territories controlled by KMT, in order to relieve the heavy burden on his own territories, and to position enemies at the gates of the KMT. He ordered Liu and Deng to lead their armies from their northern China base in Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

, Shanxi
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

 and Hebei
Hebei
' is a province of the People's Republic of China in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "" , named after Ji Province, a Han Dynasty province that included what is now southern Hebei...

, to Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 in southern China. This involved sending 100,000 soldiers across the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

, and marching over 1000 kilometers into central plain. Liu and Deng both saw it as a gamble rather than a strategic move, and even Mao himself was not certain if such gamble would pay off by openly discussing the three possible outcomes:
  1. The communist force could not even reach Dabie Shan
    Dabie Shan
    The Dabie Mountains are a major mountain range located in central China. Running northwest-to-southeast, they form the main watershed between the Huai and Yangtze rivers...

    .
  2. The communist force would be driven out by the Kuomintang
    Kuomintang
    The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

     force after reaching Dabie Shan
    Dabie Shan
    The Dabie Mountains are a major mountain range located in central China. Running northwest-to-southeast, they form the main watershed between the Huai and Yangtze rivers...

    .
  3. The communist force would be able to establish new base in Dabie Mountain
    Dabie Shan
    The Dabie Mountains are a major mountain range located in central China. Running northwest-to-southeast, they form the main watershed between the Huai and Yangtze rivers...

    .


Although many expressed their concerns, Mao would not change his mind. During the expedition, they faced elite KMT armies. Liu launched the Southwestern Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 Campaign defeating over nine brigades of KMT troops. Under this plot and cover, Liu’s army promptly moved south and went into the Dabie Mountain
Dabie Shan
The Dabie Mountains are a major mountain range located in central China. Running northwest-to-southeast, they form the main watershed between the Huai and Yangtze rivers...

 areas. Liu’s armies suffered great losses; half of the troops were wiped out and all of their heavy artilleries were lost, which greatly weakened their military abilities in later campaigns. Liu and Deng's troops survived further rounds of attack. Far away from the power base, with few support armies and supplies, Liu led self-sufficient soldiers and broke rounds of heavy blockade, while boosting his strength back to the original 100,000. Mao and his associates were very impressed by Liu's achievement and it was only then did they begin to maintain that the direct threat to Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 and Wuhan
Wuhan
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, People's Republic of China, and is the most populous city in Central China. It lies at the east of the Jianghan Plain, and the intersection of the middle reaches of the Yangtze and Han rivers...

 was a great achievement; a knife into the heart of KMT governance. Liu's success was indeed forced the nationalists to redeploy nearly two dozen brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s against him, disrupting Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

's original plan, thus relieved nationalist pressure on other communist forces. Mao's gamble had paid off with Liu's clever military strategies.

Liu's success did not end there, he carried out to expand his initial victories over the nationalists by carrying out several campaigns with armies led by Chen Yi
Chen Yi (communist)
Chen Yi was a Chinese communist military commander and politician. He served as the 2nd Mayor of Shanghai and the 2nd Foreign Minister of China.-Biography:Chen was born in Lezhi, near Chengdu, Sichuan, into a moderately wealthy magistrate's family....

 and Su Yu
Su Yu
Su Yu was a Chinese Communist military leader. He was considered by many to be among the best commanders of the PLA only next to Lin Biao and Liu Bocheng. Su Yu fought in the Sino-Japanese War and in the Chinese Civil War...

, another army led by Chen Geng
Chen Geng
Chen Geng was a Chinese communist military leader.-Early life:Born in Hunan province, Chen was second of 12 siblings. However, because his elder brother died early due to illness, Chen became the eldest son. His grandfather, Chen Yiqong was an officer in the imperial Chinese army and was rewarded...

 (陈赓), to annihilate a great number of KMT troops led by two prominent generals, Chen Cheng
Chen Cheng
Chen Cheng , was a Chinese political and military leader, and one of the main National Revolutionary Army commanders during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War. After moving to Taiwan at the end of the Civil War, he served as the Governor of Taiwan Province, Vice President and...

 and Bai Chongxi
Bai Chongxi
Bai Chongxi , , also spelled Pai Chung-hsi, was a Chinese general in the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China and a prominent Chinese Nationalist Muslim leader. He was of Hui ethnicity and of the Muslim faith...

. After ten months of hard work, Liu and Deng had significantly enlarged the area of central plain area occupied by the CPC, and forced the KMT armies into strategic defense, as Chiang no longer had enough troops for attack. In Nov 1948, Liu, Deng, Chen, Su and Tan Zhenlin (谭震林) together formed the Military Committee to command the massive Huai Hai Campaign, which was carried out by CPC troops in East China and the central plain to fight against the KMT main forces in Xuzhou
Xuzhou
Xuzhou , otherwise known as Pengcheng in ancient times, is a major city in and the fourth largest prefecture-level city of Jiangsu province, People's Republic of China...

 and Anhui. In this decisive battle, more than 500,000 KMT soldiers were annihilated; among the POWs was General Du Yuming
Du Yuming
Du Yuming was a Kuomintang field commander active in the Sino-Japanese War theatre of World War II and in the Chinese Civil War from 1945 to 1949....

, Chiang's most distinguished protégé.

In April 1949, after illusive peace talks between the CPC and the KMT were broken, Liu led his armies across the Yangtze River and conquered huge areas of Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Fujian
Fujian
' , formerly romanised as Fukien or Huguing or Foukien, is a province on the southeast coast of mainland China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, and Guangdong to the south. Taiwan lies to the east, across the Taiwan Strait...

, taking over Nanjing, the capital of the KMT. Liu was appointed mayor of Nanjing for a short while. With assistance from He Long, Liu and Deng launched new campaigns to liberate vast areas in Southwestern China, by using long distance bypass and siege strategies. Among the areas conquered were his and Deng’s own hometowns, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Xikang.

After the Establishment of the PRC


On October 1, 1949, Mao announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. During the ceremony, Liu stood next to Mao. This marked the peak of his career as a military commander. In January 1950, Liu was appointed chairman of the Southwestern Division of the Central People’s Government of PRC, together with Gao Gang
Gao Gang
Gao Gang was a Chinese Communist Party leader during the Chinese Civil War and the early years of the People's Republic of China , before becoming the victim of the first major purge within the CCP since before 1949...

, Rao Shushi
Rao Shushi
Rao Shushi like his confederate Gao Gang, was a senior leader of the Communist Party of China , who once enjoyed great power and fame that then quickly evaporated, leaving behind many mysteries about his rise and fall.-Early years:...

, Peng and Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

. The rewards of conquering southwestern China, however, proved only to be temporary. Mao soon sent his favorite general He Long
He Long
He Long was a Chinese military leader. He rose to the rank of Marshal and Vice Premier after the founding of the People's Republic of China.-Early life:He Long was a member of the Tujia ethnic group...

 to work alongside Liu, to supervise and share the power with Liu. During his short tenure as governor, Liu led his soldiers in the crackdown of bandits and restored law and order, oversaw economic development, and more importantly, made plans for the communist invasion of Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

.

Towards the end of 1950, Liu was transferred to Nanjing as president and commissar of the Military Academy of the PLA, which would be considered a demotion for Liu. There were no clear or generally accepted reasons on record for his falling out of favour. One popular opinion holds that, during the long period of time that Liu worked with or under Mao, he's never really earned Mao's trust. Liu himself knew that too. From the Chinese history, he learnt that most generals that helped establish a new dynasty ended up getting killed by the suspicious Emperor. In order to prevent that from happening on himself, he tried to stay as far away from politics as possible. Because of his early year military training in Soviet Union, he used that as an excuse to quit his job in the government and become the president and commissar of the Military Academy of the PLA. Mao approved his request. The other story says that, while Liu was still chairman, someone unknown to the public submitted a biography of Liu in support of his promotion. In this biography he described Liu as an offspring of Liu Bang, founder and first emperor of the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, and hinted that Liu himself could set up his own empire as his ancestor did. Knowing of the cruelties and conspiracies in Chinese history, Liu was worried instead of happy, because he knew that it would arouse Mao's suspicions over Liu's intentions. Although Liu had this man arrested, Mao still learnt of the event, and Liu’s worries eventually turned into reality. This only served to further increase Mao’s long-time distrust of Liu.

Despite the demotion, Liu was dedicated to his new job, attempting to bring what he learned during his years in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to the Academy. He organised the translations of numerous military textbooks from the Soviet Union and other countries, introducing major campaigns from ancient times to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to students, and sowing the seeds of the PLA's evolution into a modern army. Although Liu was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Committee of the CPC and PRC in 1954 as a reward for his contributions, these titles did not promise real power as Peng's did. (Peng was appointed Defense Minister for his battle achievements in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

.) In 1955, Liu attained the rank of field marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

, ranking as the 4th amongst 10 field marshals of the PLA, next to Zhu De, Peng and Lin Biao.

In 1956, after Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 shook the Communist world by making his famous Secret Speech denouncing the cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

 that surrounded Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

, Mao wanted to ensure that a similar incident within the CPC would not happen. He wrote an article, "On Ten Relationships", arguing that the CPC should learn from foreign countries selectively, analytically and with criticism. The CPC center then issued documents to call on all CPC members to overcome the trend of dogmatism and empiricism at work. Investigations and purges were carried out by the military, under the direction of Peng. As an advocate of learning from other countries, Liu became a key target. Some of his subordinates and deputies, including General Xiao Ke
Xiao Ke
Xiao Ke was a general in the People's Liberation Army of China, former vice chairman of the CPPCC, as well as principal of the University of Military and Politics.-Early life:Xiao was born in Jiahe County, Hunan Province of China....

 (萧克), were censored and kept in custody. Liu had to make rounds of analyses and apologies. Under heavy pressure, his health worsened (he eventually lost all sight in his remaining eye), and he finally submitted his resignation as president.

In 1959, Liu left Nanjing for Beijing and lived in half-reclusion. Although he was since elected as member of the Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 in the 8th to 11th National Congress of the CPC, Vice-Chairman of the 2nd to 5th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and all the while holding the title of Vice-Chairman of the Military Committee, he did not participate very much in politics, citing health problems as a reason for his absence. This saved him from the following rounds of purges carried out by Mao. Peng, however, was not as fortunate. He was purged in the Lushan Conference
Lushan Conference
The Lushan Conference , officially the 8th Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, began on July 2, 1959 and was an informal discussion about the Great Leap Forward...

 in 1959 and later tortured to death during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

.

By the time of the Cultural Revolution, Liu became completely blind. Nonetheless, he survived the purge and witnessed his long-time friend Deng returning to power again. He supported Deng in the power struggle against Mao’s widow, Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing was the pseudonym that was used by Chinese leader Mao Zedong's last wife and major Communist Party of China power figure. She went by the stage name Lan Ping during her acting career, and was known by various other names during her life...

, and her Gang of Four
Gang of Four
The Gang of Four was the name given to a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes...

, and also advocated Deng's policy of reforming and opening up China to the outside world, a policy that Liu himself had practiced in the Academy decades ago.

In 1982, Liu retired due to worsening health problems. This gave Deng a boost in his calling for the retirement of aging leaders in order to clear the way for younger leaders of the CPC. On October 7, 1986, Liu died in Beijing, at the age of 94. In the lament given to him, Liu was rehabilitated and cleared of all charges against him during the movements against dogmatism.

Anecdotes


During the Fengdu campaign in 1916, Liu was hit by a bullet in the head, which passed through his right temple and went out from his right eye. A German surgeon performed surgery for him to remove the eyeball and debride necrotic tissues. To keep his brain nerves from being damaged by the anaesthetics, Liu insisted on operation without anesthesia. After the procedure was finished, Liu told the surgeon that he counted a total of 72 cuts. The doctor was greatly moved by this display of courage and perseverance, and out of great respect he gave Liu the nickname "Chinese Mars
Mars (mythology)
Mars was the Roman god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions...

".

Deng's famous “Cats Theory” (“Whether it is a black cat or a white cat, as long as it can catch the rat, it is a good cat”), in fact, originated from Liu. During his long military career, Liu often stated that “Whether it is a black cat or a yellow cat, as long as it can catch the rat, it is a good cat” to demonstrate that the purpose of war is to win, no matter what strategies you take.

Once, Deng made fun of Liu by complaining that his partner's only shortcoming was being a dull man; he spent all his time on reading and thinking except when he is commanding, without any entertainment at all.

Liu and Deng’s relationship prior to the communist takeover was not so close as it appeared on record. After their army won a battle, Deng claimed it was a great victory of Maoism. Liu refuted: "If we lose, can we say it is a great loss of Maoism?"

Liu and Deng's relationship grew strong only after the communist takeover because both were discontent with Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

's disastrous policy such as Great Leap Forward
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China , reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern...

 and Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

: As Liu was persecuted in the late 1950s, Deng showed his support to Liu, as the latter was making rounds of analyses and apologies for the so-called dogmatism and empiricism. Similarly, Liu showed his support to Deng for Deng's economic policy in the early 1960s to rescue Chinese economy.

Deng's entire family attended Liu's funeral, which only happened in the case of very close family ties in traditional Chinese culture. Liu wanted a small funeral in the hospital he died in. However, because too many military and political leaders requested to attend the funeral, the funeral was moved to a bigger hall.

False Anecdotes


Liu and Deng's relationship was greatly exaggerated by the Chinese general populace as a way to protest Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

's disastrous Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

: In 1972, shortly after the death of Chinese Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 Chen Yi
Chen Yi (communist)
Chen Yi was a Chinese communist military commander and politician. He served as the 2nd Mayor of Shanghai and the 2nd Foreign Minister of China.-Biography:Chen was born in Lezhi, near Chengdu, Sichuan, into a moderately wealthy magistrate's family....

, Liu told his family that after his death, he wanted his funeral to be held by Deng, and his eulogy to be done by Deng, and this was when Deng was still under house arrest and Liu did so to show his support. However, the general Chinese populace had gravely turned this incident into something out of proportion as a way to protest the disastrous Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 by claiming that after the Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

 was named by Mao as his successor, Liu had make a request in a face-to-face conversation with Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

, wanting his funeral to be held by Deng, and his eulogy to be done by Deng, or else he would rather have his son to throw his cadaver in the fields to feed the wild dogs.

In reality, there is no official record that Liu had made such outrageous request, or had any face-to-face conversations with Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

either, or made any formal request to the Chinese regime to have his funeral held by Deng and his eulogy done by Deng. However, it was definitely his personal wish which is revealed to his family. This personal wish of Liu became a reality after his death as his family informed the Chinese regime about his wish, and by that time, Deng was already the paramount leader of China and nobody could stop him from honoring Liu's personal wish.

Legacy


Unlike other CCP generals such as Lin Biao and Peng Dehuai, Liu never won real trust and support from Mao. Liu earned his reputation and title through his own outstanding military skills and sublime personality. He oversaw the development of the CPC armies’ expertise in regular battle, frontal attack, army groups campaign as well as siege. Liu was also the first to introduce modern military strategies and tactics of foreign countries to the CPC army, and incorporated science and artistry into military training. All of these endeavours shifted public perception of the CPC army from being a guerrilla force consisting of peasants and proletarians with little regular training to becoming a sophisticated and highly-skilled modern military force.