Zhu De (朱德, Wade-Giles: Chu Teh) (1886 - July 1976) was a legendary Chinese Communist military leader and statesman.
He was born in Sichuan province and began his career as a mercenary in the warlord armies of the Southwest. In these years he developed a taste for concubines and an addiction to opium, but in the early 1920s he renounced his former vices, went abroad to study military sciences in Germany, and returned to China to serve in a training regiment of Sun Yat-sen's Kuomintang army.
In 1922 Zhu secretly joined the Communist Party of China under the sponsorship of Zhou Enlai. Zhu's close affiliation with Mao Zedong began after the failed revolutionary uprisings in 1927, when both men fled to the Chingkang Mountains to avoid the total annihilation of their forces. From these humble beginnings Mao and Zhu built the Red Army into a skilled guerilla force that consolidated and expanded the base areas under Communist control. Zhu's bravery and skill in leading these men made him a figure of immense prestige, and the locals credited him with supernatural abilities.
During the Long March Zhu De and Zhang Guodao commanded the "western column" of the Red Army which barely survived the retreat through Sichuan Province. In Yenan, Zhu directed the reconstruction of the Red Army under the political guidance of Mao and during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the Chinese Civil War he held the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. After 1949 Zhu was named Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and was vice-Chairman of the Communist Party. He continued to be a prominent and much respected elder statesman until his death in July 1976, at which time he was Chairman of the National People's Congress (since 1975).