New commander takes control of PLA's elite 13th Group Army

PLA reshuffle sees Major General Wang Kai to take over as head of the Chongqing-based army unit dubbed 'Tiger in the mountains'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 1:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 2:34am

Major General Wang Kai has been promoted to the rank of Commander of the elite 13th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army, state media reported on Wednesday.

The 13th Group Army is one of the most famous in China. Together with the 14th Group Army, it operates under the administration of the Chengdu Military Command, with its headquarters in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing.

Wang was previously the Chief of Staff for the PLA 14th Group Army.

Chongqing has become a politically sensitive place since the downfall of former party head Bo Xilai.

The central government has allocated three Central Party Committee members places on the municipality’s decision-making body, a rare political move in China. The only other provincial-level administration equipped with the same number of political heavyweights is Guangdong province, the bridgehead of China’s economic reforms.

Wang, along with other senior officers of the 13th Group Army, waved goodbye to retired soldiers at a train station in the city of Chongqing on Monday, state media reported.

The 50-year-old was awarded the title ‘National Model’ for his work in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Both 13th and 14th Group Armies took part in the Sichuan relief operation.

Additional details about Wang were not disclosed by state media.

Dubbed the ‘Tiger in the Mountains’, the 13th Group Army is a Category A unit that specialises in fighting in landscapes like mountains, highlands and tropical jungles, according to local media.

The army can trace its lineage back to 1939 through part of the Taiyue Military District in central China. It was adapted from the former 13th and 50th armies in 1985.

Most of its troops are believed to be located in Yunnan province as its major tasks include ensuring the stability of Tibet and guarding China’s borders with India and Vietnam. It has taken part in the crackdown on riots in Tibet and skirmishes on the Sino-Indian border.

The 13th Group Army is also regarded as the only Chinese force that has participated in combat missions since 1949 and it has achieved most battle honours since the Korean War in 1950s.

Its former commanders include General Zhang Youxia, the current Director of the PLA General Armaments Department in charge of weaponry. Zhang is also a member of the Central Military Commission, the Chinese military’s highest decision-making body.

Wang’s predecessor, Major General Xu Yong, was appointed Commander of Tibet Military District in July.

President Xi Jinping paid a visit to the army in May when he boarded helicopters, photos from Xinhua showed.

Since President Xi’s swearing in during November last year, a series of personnel reshuffles has taken place in the PLA.

Most recently, the former Guizhou Military District Commander Li Yazhou was relocated to command the Sichuan Military District, with his post filled by Wang Shenghuai, former deputy commander of the Sichuan Military District.

In addition, Liu Jiaguo was appointed as political commissar of the Sichuan Military District and Ma Jiali as political commissar of the Jiangxi Military District.

The commanders of the Armed Police Corps in Gansu, Heilongjiang and Zhejiang provinces were also replaced in the reshuffle.