Image credit @coljac.
As the new Politburo Standing Committee prepares to take over running the country, changes are also afoot in the top ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with a reshuffle that will replace seven of China’s ten most senior generals.
The first major moves in the overhaul were announced today, as the PLA appointed a new air force commander and a new head to its General Political Department, which is responsible for army morale, personnel changes and loyalty to the Communist party.
Zhang Yang, a 61-year-old general formerly based in Guangzhou, will take command of the General Political Department. General Zhang is something of a dark horse, and it is believed that he may have gained the promotion at the expense of General Liu Yuan and Zhang Haiyang, both of whom had links to disgraced former Politburo Standing Committee member Bo Xilai.
The new head of the air force, meanwhile, is General Ma Xiaotian, 63, who has been outspoken, at times, about the United State’s increasing presence in Asia.
Five other new faces will join Generals Ma and Zhang on the Central Military Commission (CMC), as seven of the current commission members have reached retirement age. It remains to be seen however whether Hu Jintao will remain head of the CMC in the manner of his predecessor Jiang Zemin, who hung on to the position for two years after stepping down as party chief.
Hu, 69, has not made public his plans for retirement but, unlike in the West where former presidents and prime ministers tend to fade from the public eye, Chinese leaders seek to maintain influence to avoid possible adverse political repercussions down the road and preserve their legacy.
Incoming president Xi Jinping has more military experience than Hu did before becoming head of the CPC. Xi’s father was a military leader during the revolution and Xi himself worked as an aide to Geng Biao, who became Defence Minister in 1981.
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