MILITARY strongman Zhang Zhen has had repeated run-ins with Jiang Zemin despite signs the President has tightened his hold over the Army. General Zhang, 81, a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, has been less than consistent in upholding Mr Jiang's position as the 'core' of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) leadership, according to mainland sources. 'Zhang has indicated to his inner circle that it would be better to have a professional soldier lead the Army,' a source said. 'On policy matters such as the need to be tough on Taiwan, the Red Army veteran has spoken out without first clearing his statements with the Politburo Standing Committee.' General Zhang, a much-decorated commander and head of the National Defence University before he was called out of retirement by Deng Xiaoping in 1992, has also defied Mr Jiang's requests to step down. Instead, he hinted he would like to be given an additional political position in the Communist Party. In an apparent bid to dilute General Zhang's power, Mr Jiang promoted generals Zhang Wannian, 67, and Chi Haotian, 66, as commission vice-chairmen last month. But it is expected General Zhang will resist demands by Mr Jiang, who is also chairman of the commission, to share power with them. 'Zhang has indicated he won't quit unless he receives an explicit order from Deng,' a diplomatic source said. 'Zhang does not consider either Chi or Zhang Wannian to be his equal because they come from a younger generation.' The source also cited reports in Beijing about the lack of co-operation between General Zhang and the fast-rising generals. As head of the PLA's so-called Third Field Army faction, General Zhang wields tremendous power. Many newly promoted senior officers were his students at the defence university. Meanwhile, army sources have disclosed that shortly before his health deteriorated in late 1994, Mr Deng gave instructions to Mr Jiang to pay more attention to building his power base in the PLA. 'Spend five out of six working days on army affairs,' Mr Deng, a former military commission chairman, reportedly told Mr Jiang. The patriarch also suggested that to boost the influence of the PLA, senior generals should be allowed to sit in on Politburo meetings.