The youngest lieutenant general in the People's Liberation Army has recently been given pole position in the jockeying for a seat on the Central Military Commission (CMC) during an expected restructuring next year.
In his new role as deputy director of the PLA's General Armaments Department, Lieutenant General Zhang Yulin, 53, formerly the president of National University of Defence Technology, visited Shaoshan, the hometown of Mao Zedong, on July 3, according to the Shaoshan authorities' website.
Zhang, a prominent astronautical engineer, is generally considered one of the strongest contenders to succeed General Chang Wanquan to head the army's armament department.
Zeng Zhiping, a military expert at Nanchang Institute of Technology in Jiangxi province, said: 'Zhang is very likely to take over from General Chang, who will almost undoubtedly be promoted as one of the CMC's vice-chairmen around the Communist Party's 18th national congress in autumn next year.'
However, Zhang has to compete with other potential candidates such as Lieutenant General Zhang Youxia, currently the commander of Shenyang military region. The General Armaments Department's director is an ex officio member of the CMC - the PLA's supreme decision-making body.
'I have little doubt regarding Lieutenant General Zhang Yulin's ability to be the General Armaments Department's chief, as he is very familiar with armament affairs after serving as the head of the National University of Defence Technology for years,' said Zeng.
Whether Zhang got the job would depend on his family background and political reliability.
Zhang's appointment is part of the PLA leadership reshuffle, which has seen the promotion of Lieutenant General Wu Changde, 59, former director of the political department of the Chengdu military region, as deputy director of the PLA's General Political Department.
Lieutenant General Zhu Jinlin, 61, the top commander in Xinjiang, recently replaced Lieutenant General Guan Kai, 63, as deputy commander of the Lanzhou military region.
The vacancy left by Zhu has already been filled by Major General Peng Yong, 59, formerly the commander of the Lanzhou military region's 47th Army Corps, Xinjiang TV reported on July 8.
Meanwhile, Major General Dai Sujun, the head of the People's Armed Police in Xinjiang during rioting in July 2009, was promoted to deputy commander of the paramilitary police force this month, said the People's Armed Police News.
Dai, 56, became deputy chief of the PAP's general staff a month after the ethnic clashes in Urumqi which left 197 dead and some 1,600 injured. He was head of the force's logistics department before his recent promotion.