18th Party Congress

Two generals in line for Central Military Commission

Two generals promoted to air force chief and top political commissar, a likely step to places on supreme military policymaking body

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 3:02pm

The People's Liberation Army has begun a new reshuffle of senior officers less than three weeks ahead of the Communist Party's 18th national congress.

A source said two generals had been put in position for likely membership of the Central Military Commission (CMC) - the nation's supreme military policymaking body.

General Ma Xiaotian, formerly deputy chief of general staff, has been named the new air force commander, while General Zhang Yang, the former political commissar of the Guangzhou military area command, is now director of the PLA's General Political Department.8

According to the Beijing-based military source, Ma, 63, had already taken over from General Xu Qiliang, 62, as the top officer overseeing the air force, and Xu was tipped to be a vice-chairman of the CMC.

Meanwhile, Zhang, 61, has replaced General Li Jinai as the officer in charge of the army's political affairs, as Li is due to retire, having turned 70.

CCTV's military channel reported on Sunday that Zhang, in his new capacity as the PLA's top political commissar, accompanied General Xu Caihou, a CMC vice-chairman, to a play in Beijing on Saturday evening.

Military observers suggested Zhang was promoted largely because of his political reliability, especially after the downfall of former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai.

Aside from accompanying Xu on an inspection tour of several troops in the Guangzhou military area command in February, after events began to unfold that led to Bo's ousting, Zhang Yang also wrote and published in the People's Daily an article on June 5 calling for absolute obedience to party leaders during peacetime military operations.

Zhang's promotion also signals two former front runners for CMC membership - General Liu Yuan, 61, political commissar of the PLA's General Logistics Department, and General Zhang Haiyang, 63, political commissar of the PLA's strategic missile forces - have been virtually eliminated from contention.

The source also said that General Tian Xiusi, a former political commissar of the Chengdu military area command, had succeeded General Deng Changyou as political commissar of the air force, and that Lieutenant General Zhu Fuxi filled the void left by Tian.

The source said Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, former director of the CMC general office, and Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, former assistant to the chief of general staff, had been promoted to deputy chiefs of general staff over the past few days.

The official website of the Ministry of National Defence reported that Qi, in his new capacity, met his visiting Finnish counterpart in Beijing yesterday.

The source said Major General Zhou Tao, publicity chief of the General Political Department, had taken over as director of the CMC general office, and that Lieutenant General Cai Yingting, the deputy chief of general staff, was now commander of the Nanjing military area command.