Military reshuffles its major positions

Updated: 2012-10-26 02:23

By Li Xiaokun and Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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The People's Liberation Army announced key appointments in a major reshuffle that experts and observers said reflects its determination to continue its modernization drive.

Four generals — Fang Fenghui, Zhang Yang, Zhao Keshi and Zhang Youxia — were named to lead four key PLA departments: general staff, general political, general logistics and general armaments.

All held leadership positions at major military commands.

Ma Xiaotian was recently named commander of the Air Force after holding the post of deputy chief of the general staff.

The reshuffle won't change the country's military strategy as the appointments are not decided by any individual but the top leadership as a whole, said Xiong Guangkai, a retired general who was deputy chief of the general staff in the 1990s.

"It is the Central Military Commission that makes such personnel decisions," Xiong said.

"Like the country, the PLA is under collective leadership. So unlike some other nations, the PLA's strategy and policies are not going to change with changes in personnel."

Teng Jianqun, research director of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the reshuffle reflects the leadership's emphasis on the experience of senior military commanders, especially at a time of regional tension.

"Their careers almost follow the same path," Teng said.

All four are generals from the PLA ground force and have achieved their rank through merit and worked their way up.

For example, Fang joined the PLA in 1968 when he was 16. He served more than 34 years in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Fang became the commander of the Beijing Military Command, which covers part of North China, in 2007.

Zhang Youxia, who takes over the responsibility of improving the PLA's weaponry and technology, is the son of Zhang Zongxun, one of the first PLA generals who achieved their ranks in 1955. This makes Zhang and his father the second such pair to achieve the rank.

Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the national security policy commission of the China Association of Policy and Science, said that all of the four newly appointed chiefs are veteran strategists as they were promoted from major command areas.

"As the leader of a military command area, it is necessary to think strategically and understand the overall picture," Li said, adding these appointments will also ensure that the top leadership know more about the situation at basic units in the armed forces.

The appointments follow the steps of Ma Xiaotian, who was recently named commander of the Air Force.

Education and extensive combat experience are common traits, retired general Xiong said. He cited the example of Ma, who used to attend training lessons with Xiong at a military academy.

"Ma is an incredible pilot and studied at military academies. He used to be president of the National Defense University."

Other top military posts were reshuffled recently in a move analysts said injects new blood and enhances the army's leadership.

Wang Guanzhong, former head of the general office of the Central Military Commission, and Qi Jianguo, who was an assistant to the chief of the general staff and a veteran of the border war between China and Vietnam, was promoted to deputy chief of the general staff.

Li, from the China Association of Policy and Science, said that Wang might be the first Chinese military officer at his level with a doctorate.

"Degrees are a trend in the PLA. At the grassroots there are numerous officers who have a master's or doctoral degree, while many of them even obtained diplomas from overseas institutes, which we could hardly imagine in the past."

The Takungpao newspaper in Hong Kong said in a commentary on Wednesday that the reshuffle opens a window on the PLA leadership on the eve of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which will start on Nov 8.

The appointed officers are mostly around the age of 60, which means they have spent about 40 years in the PLA and have extensive experience in various positions.

That is conductive to the smooth transition of the military leadership ahead of, and after, the 18th CPC National Congress, the paper said.

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Military reshuffles its major positions