A talented general was recently named commander of the People's Liberation Army's elite military force responsible for maintaining the safety of Beijing, according to local media reports. Top officials with the municipal party committee, government, people's congress and people's political consultative conference in Baoding, Hebei province, prepared a feast on March 15 to welcome Major General Xu Linping, 55, as the new commander of the 38th Group Army under the Beijing Military Region, the Baoding Daily reported two days later. Considered the nation's best-equipped and most competent military force, the Baoding-based 38th Group Army is tasked largely with safeguarding the nation's capital from possible attack. The troop was among the main forces that reportedly opened fire on protesters during the June 4, 1989, crackdown. Major General Xu Qinxian, the commander of the troop before the crackdown, was reportedly stripped of his command and imprisoned for five years after refusing to open fire on the protesters. Xu Linping, was born in 1957 to a family with a military background. He had been commander of another force affiliated with the Beijing Military Region - the PLA's 65th Group Army, based in Zhangjiakou, Hebei - since early 2008. He has been regarded as a rising military star with the PLA, particularly after he excelled academically in a one-year course at the General Staff Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russia Federation in 1997. It is unclear which PLA factions Xu Linping has belonged to, based on his profile. But speculation is rife that he is close to Defence Minister Liang Guanglie after serving as his subordinate when Liang was the chief of staff and deputy commander of the Beijing Military Region between 1993 and 1997. The vacancy left by Xu Linping has been taken by Major General Liu Zhenli, formerly the chief of staff with the 65th Group Army. Major General Wang Xixin, 58, Xu Linping's predecessor, was named the vice-president of the PLA National Defence University last month. He had long been tipped to be named commander of one of the seven military regions.