18th Party Congress

New PLA chief of staff Fang Fenghui flourishes under president's wing

Fang Fenghui first rose to prominence when president plucked him from Guangzhou to run Beijing command

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 4:53am

The People's Liberation Army's new chief of general staff, Fang Fenghui, is a loyal protégé of President Hu Jintao, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Fang has been serving as commander of the Beijing Military Command, responsible for the defence of Beijing, Tianjin and three neighbouring provinces - Hebei , Shanxi and Inner Mongolia .

The rising star first jumped into the limelight when Hu plucked him from the Guangzhou Military Command in 2007 to head the Beijing command, impressive not only because of the sensitivity of the new job but also his age.

At 56 he was the youngest commander among the seven major military commanders.

Fang's achievements in Beijing included commanding the parade in 2009 to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

Fang's promotion showed his loyalty had won the trust of Hu, said Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association in Macau.

"It's likely that Hu will hold the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission after the handover, and Fang will help him consolidate and enhance his political impact on the commission because his new job gives him a seat on the top military decision-making body," Wong said.

Hu will hand over party and positions to Xi Jinping at next month's 18th party congress.

Fang will be officially named chief of general staff to replace General Chen Bingde, who has a seat on the commission, at next month's congress.

Chen, 71, is likely to retire after the party summit because he is over 68, an unofficial retirement line set by former president Jiang Zemin in 2002.

Fang, 61, joined the army when he was only 16.

He was promoted to major general in 1998 when he was a corp commander of the Lanzhou Military Command. Seven years later, when he was moved to Guangzhou Military Command, he was promoted to lieutenant general.

Fang has been an electronics enthusiast for years. According to military websites, one of his hobbies is developing integrated military command software.

"Learning digital systems and information warfare is one of the requirements of today's military leaders," Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association in Beijing, said.