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Xu Shiyou (1905–1985; Chinese: 许世友; pinyin: Xǔ Shìyǒu) was a general in the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Born in Xinxian, Henan Province (it belonged to Hubei previously), Xu grew up studying martial arts at the Shaolin Temple for eight years and he later became a soldier in Wu Peifu's warlord army. After having served as a lieutenant in the Kuomintang army, he joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1927.[1]

Early career

Xu first emerged in the annals of Chinese military history in Hubei in 1927, as part of a nascent military unit that included future generals Qin Jiwei and Chen Zaidao.[2] In 1932, he commanded the 34th Regiment, 12th Division of the Fourth Front Army led by future Marshall Xu Xiangqian. His deputy in the 25th Division, 9th Corps (which Xu later led) in 1933-36, Chen Xilian,[3] later rose to serve on the Politburo Standing Committee during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. By the age of 29, Xu Shiyou commanded the Red 9th Corps of the Fourth Front Army.

Eight months after the First Front Army abandon the Jiangxi Soviet and embarked on the Long March, it met up with Zhang Guotao’s Fourth Front Army, in June 1935 at Maogong, Sichuan. Zhang favored consolidating power in Sichuan whereas Mao Zedong wanted to continue on to Gansu and Ningxia, to receive aid from the Soviet Union. The compromise decision was to convene a conference, in July at Mao’ergai. Despite support from Liu Bocheng, Zhu De and other commanders, Mao would not be convinced. As a result, the Fourth Front Army was divided into a Left Column under Liu, Zhu and Zhang; and a Right Column under Xu Xiangqian. Xu Shiyou at the time commanded a cavalry regiment.

The Second Front Army, under He Long and Ren Bishi, and Xiao Ke's Sixth Front Army linked up with the Fourth Front Army in June 1936. Again dividing their forces, He Long took the Second on a northward line toward Gansu while Zhang led his forces somewhat west of that line. The result was that Zhang’s Fourth Front Army was battered by Nationalist and warlord troops, and arrived in Yenan in poor shape in October 1936. Zhang was forced to submit to Mao’s leadership.[4]

In the first half of 1937, just prior to the formal beginning of the Sino-Japanese War, the purge of Zhang Guotao and his closest officers sparked turmoil within the party. Cadets of the Fourth Front Army studying at the Anti-Japanese University (Kang Da), including Xu, confronted the party leadership over accusations that Zhang was disloyal.[5]

In 1939, Xu Xiangqian led elements of the 129th Division – including Xu Shiyou and Han Xianchu – into western Shandong to recruit new soldiers. Xu Shiyou went on to serve as deputy commander of the 385th Brigade, 129th Division in eastern Shandong and expanded his forces into the 11th Army of Marshall Chen Yi’s Third Field Army. One of his key deputies during the war was Nie Fengzhi, who would later command the Chinese People's Volunteers Air Force during the Korean War. Xu remained in Shandong until 1954.[6] In the fall of 1947, Xu commanded the East Front Army Corps of Chen Yi’s East China Field Army (later the 3rd Field Army); his political commissar, Tan Zhenlin, was one of the most powerful figures in East China. They took Jinan in September 1948.[7]

Regional Power

At the end of the war, Xu’s forces found themselves in Shanghai, and he became a member of the East China Military and Administrative Committee under Chen Yi and Su Yu. As the Korean War unfolded, he moved into Shandong (assuming a seat on the local governing committee and the post of Military District Commander), to confront what was thought to be the risk of an American landing on Chinese soil.[8] In Shandong, he worked closely with Gu Mu and Kang Sheng.[9] Although Xu did not serve in Korea, his units did. In 1959, his 12th and 60th Corps returned from Korea to the Nanjing Military Region where they provided the power base he would enjoy well into the 1970s.[10]

Xu served as Commander of the Nanjing Military Region (1954–74), first under East China Military and Administrative Committee chairman Rao Shushi, and then for ten years with Gang of Four member Zhang Chunqiao as his political commissar (1967–76). This assignment was the single longest tenure of any MR commander on record. Among his deputies during the 1960s were future regional leaders Sung Shilun, Wang Bicheng and Tan Qilong, As the armed forces were called in to restore administrative control, he became Chairman of the Jiangsu Province Revolutionary Committee (1968–74) and CCP First Secretary (1970–74). In the long-delayed military region reshuffle initiated under Deng Xiaoping, Xu was rotated to command the Guangzhou MR (1974–80).[11] Xu and political commissar Wei Guoqing provided protection for Deng Xiaoping in 1976, when the future paramount leader was purged by the Gang of Four following the death of Zhou Enlai.[12] Xu was also commander in chief for the Chinese forces in the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979.[13]

Central Power

After being elected an Alternate Member of the 8th Central Committee in 1956, Xu Shiyou served in the Politburo of the 9th, 10th and 11th CCP Central Committees (1969–82). He was a Vice Minister of National Defense (1959–70) and a member of the National Defense Council (1965–75). From 1980, he was also a member of the Military Affairs Commission. In September 1982, Xu became the only military officer named a founding Vice Chairmen of the Central Advisory Commission.[14]

Personal life & Important Events

Xu Shiyou has married three times. His first wife was a traditional rural woman. The second wife, Li Mingzhen, was married to him in the E-Yu-Wan border region. Hist third and the last wife, Tian Pu, was married to him in Shandong during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). Both Li Mingzhen and Tian Pu are members of the People's Liberation Army.

In September 1926, Xu joined the Chinese Communist Youth League and go to Wuhan to participate in the National Revolutionary Army. Division 1 Group.

In August 1927, He joined in the Red Army, served for Red Mountain Area 31 Division 2 team squad. In November 1927, he was th platoon leader of Red Army 31 Division 4 Team 5 platoon.

In 1929,he was appointed a battalion regiment commander of 31 Division 1.

In April, 1930, he served for Red Army regiment 12, division 34.

In July 1933, He was appointed Deputy Army and Chairman of Red 9 Jun 25 Division. Red Army commander, he Participated in the Long March.

In November 1936, he studied in Red Army college when they reached northern Shaanxi.

In 1938,he was Deputy Minister of Administrative Affairs.Anti-Japanese Military and Political University In June 1939, He was the Deputy Brigade Commander of 129 Brigade Division 386 of The Eighth Route Army In October 1939, he was in the Northern Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

In September 1940, column of the Eighth Route Army 3rd Brigade of Shandong.

In February 1942. he was the Chief of Staff of Shandong column.

In 1942, He was appointed member of Shandong, Shandong Military Region Commander of the Regional party committee.

During the Liberation War, he served as regional party committee members Shandong, Shandong Military Region Commander.

1947,he was the Commander of the 9th column, East Field Army Corps, Shandong Corps Commander and was on Party Committee.

In March 1949, member of Shandong Military Region Deputy Commander. After the founding of the PRC, He was the Military Region Deputy Commander of Shandong branch of the CPC Central Committee.

From December 1949 -1953, He was on the Huadong Military Committee.

From January 1950 -1951 He was on CPC Central Committee, Shandong Branch Commission for Discipline Inspection.

From April 1950 -1953,he was Shandong Military Region Commander.

From December 1952 -1954, he was the deputy secretary of Shandong branch,CPC Central Committee.

From April 1953 -1954,he served as commander of No. 3 in the Chinese People's Volunteers Corps .

From July 1953 -1954,he was on the East CPC Central Committee Board.

From February 1954 -1955, He was deputy commander of Military Region 2, No. 3 Military Party Committee secretary,Huadong region.

From October 1954 -1959, He was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff of the PLA.

From March 1955 -1973,he was appointed commander of Military Region 3 party secretary, party secretary of Nanjing Military Region.

From October 1958 -1960,he was on Shanghai Bureau of the CPC Central Committee .

From September 1959 -1978 He was appointed deputy defense minister.

From February 1961 -1966 secretary of the CPC Central Committee East China Bureau.

From March 1968 -1973,he was appointed director of Jiangsu Provincial Revolutionary Committee.

From March 1970 -12, he was appointed Provincial Revolutionary Committee of the party's core team leader.

From December 1970 -1973 he was on CPC Jiangsu Provincial Committee.

From April 1969 -1982, he was the member of the CPC Central Military Commission the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau.

From January 1980 -1982 He served as a member of the Standing Committee of CPC Central Military Commission.

From December 1973 -1980 He was Guangzhou Military Region Commander, Military District No. 1 party secretary (April 1974 onwards).

From September 1982 -1985 CPC Central Committee,he was the deputy director of Advisory Committee Standing Committee. Session 1-3 Defense Committee. No. 1,4,5 th National People's Congress. The 8th CPC Central Committee alternate members, (12) members, 9-11 th Central Committee Political Bureau, member of the Central Advisory Board of 12 Elected member of the Standing Committee and deputy director.

In September 1955,he was awarded the rank of general, an honor Medal, an Medal of Independence, a Liberation Medal.

On October 22, 1985, he died in Nanjing.


  1. Shan, Patrick Fuliang (Fall 2011). "Becoming Loyal: General Xu Shiyou and Maoist Regimentation". American Journal of Chinese Studies. pp. 333–350. 
  2. Whitson, William and Huang Chen-hsia, The Chinese High Command: A History of Communist Military Politics, 1927-71, Praeger (New York: 1973), p. 126.
  3. Lampton, David M., Paths to Power: Elite Mobility in Contemporary China, Center for Chinese Studies "Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies No. 55," The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: 1986), p. 208.
  4. Lampton, p. 209ff.
  5. Whitson, p. 155.
  6. Lampton, p. 212.
  7. Lampton, p. 214-15.
  8. Whitson, p. 247.
  9. Lampton, p. 215.
  10. Whitson, p. 194.
  11. Lamb, Malcolm, Directory of Officials and Organizations in China, 1968-83, M.E. Sharpe (New York: 1983), p. 500-01 and 515-516).
  12. Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China W. W. Norton & Company 1999. ISBN 0-393-97351-4, p. 618.
  13. Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China W. W. Norton & Company 1999. ISBN 0-393-97351-4, p. 629
  14. Lamb, p. 2, 15, 23 and 25.

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