China Leadership Monitor

Cao Gangchuan: A Political Biography

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Cao Gangchuan’s Military Career Cao Gangchuan was born in Wugang, Henan Province, in December 1935. At age 19, he joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and was immediately sent to study artillery and ordnance at two entry-level technical schools, at the latter of which he graduated to serve as a teacher for one year. In 1956, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and was singled out for Russian language education to prepare him for six years of study at a prestigious artillery engineering school in the Soviet Union. When Cao returned to the PLA in 1963, he began a long career in the equipment and ordnance system within the Beijing staff departments. For 12 years, including the time of the Cultural Revolution, he worked as a low-level officer in the munitions offices of the General Logistics Department. From the mid-1970s, Cao moved over to assume increasing responsibilities in the equipment departments of the General Staff Department (GSD), serving as deputy director of the Military Equipment Department from 1982-89. During this period, sources close to General Cao confirm that he often traveled to Europe and Russia on procurement delegations. After Tiananmen in 1989, General Cao directly oversaw this commerce as director of the Office of Military Trade under the Central Military Commission.