The new leadership line-up for the People's Liberation Army's four general departments, officially unveiled yesterday, shows a fine balance of power between China's three most powerful men and its seven military regions.
The defence ministry announced the appointment of four new directors to oversee the military's political work, staff, logistics and armaments - with the appointees almost certain to become ex-officio members of the Central Military Commission (CMC) after the next month's Communist Party congress.
The next CMC, the military's top body, is believed to be the result of a compromise among former party chief Jiang Zemin , current general secretary Hu Jintao and his heir apparent, Xi Jinping .
The new Chief of General Staff, General Fang Fenghui , is a protégé of Hu, while both General Zhao Keshi , the new director of the PLA's General Logistics Department, and General Zhang Youxia , the new director of its General Armaments Department, are close to Xi.
General Zhang Yang , the new director of the PLA's General Political Department, is neutral but Jiang associate General Xu Qiliang , the former air force commander, is almost certain to become one of the CMC's three vice-chairmen.
Fang, the former commander of the Beijing Military Command, served in the Lanzhou Military Command for more than three decades. Zhang Yang worked in the Guangzhou Military Command for at least 20 years, Zhao rose from a rank-and-file soldier in the Nanjing Military Command and Zhang Youxia, former commander of the Shenyang Military Command, served in the Chengdu Military Command for more than three decades.
If, as is widely speculated, the head of the Jinan Military Command, General Fan Changlong , who spent 35 years in the Shenyang Military Command, becomes a CMC vice-chairman, the new commission will include officers who have served in all seven of the PLA's military regions.
CMC members including Hu, its chairman, attended the Beijing Military Command's party congress in May and heaped praise on the command for its strategic importance.
"The military region, under Fang's leadership, has achieved outstanding accomplishments in a string of crucial missions assigned to it, which, in turn, have made great contributions to safeguarding the country's sovereignty, security and development interests," Hu said.
Meanwhile, Zhang Youxia belongs to Xi's princelings faction - the descendants of party veterans - as the son of General Logistics Department director Zhang Zongxun . In 1947, Zhang Zongxun was appointed commander of the Shaanxi , Gansu and Ningxia Army Corps. Xi Zhongxun , Xi's father, was the corps' political commissar.
Zhao was commander of the 31st Army Corps, based in Xiamen , Fujian , between 1994 and 1999, when Xi was party secretary of provincial capital Fuzhou and then deputy provincial secretary.