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Xi Jinping

D-Day for PLA: China launches new theatre commands in drive for modern military

Land force leaders continue to dominate top posts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 12:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 9:23am

The PLA has officially abandoned its decades-old seven military regions, replacing them with five new theatre commands in its bid to establish a modern, integrated force.

But ground force personnel still dominate the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army’s new zones, a move one analyst said would help ensure stability in the transition.

Commanders with battle experience have been put in areas with a high risk of war but the selections for the central command reflect more concern about maintaining stability
Retired colonel Yue Gang

With the announcement yesterday of the new commanders and political commissars, the heads of the east, south, west, north and central commands will be responsible for the territorial defence of those areas. They will no longer directly administer the troops in each region, but focus instead on joint command of the ground, naval, air and all other forces.

As part of the changes, Lanzhou region chief General Liu Yuejun, 61, takes on the role of head of the eastern command.

General Wang Jiaocheng, 64, moves from the Shenyang region to the southern command; Jinan region commander General Zhao Zongqi, 61, becomes head of the western command; and former Beijing region commander General Song Puxuan, 62, becomes head of the northern command.

READ MORE: China’s army keeps grip on top military jobs in ‘compromise’ reshuffle

The appointments confirm a South China Morning Post report last month.

At the inauguration ceremony in Beijing on Monday, President Xi Jinping presented flags to the commanders and political commissars of each of the five zones. Xi, also the chairman of the Central Military Commission, told the chiefs their goal was to be able to command joint operations in battle.

“Each command must concentrate on studying modern warfare … and proactively seize the initiative in a future war,” Xi said”. “[You should] enhance joint command, joint action and joint logistics, and ensure troops are combat ready and complete military missions.”

READ MORE: China’s ground troops ‘still vital for defence and maintaining stability’ after People’s Liberation Army’s massive military overhaul

Retired colonel Yue Gang said the military was making a big change and had to be cautious.

“The transformation from military regions to theatre commands is huge, so the step has to be taken carefully,” Yue said, commenting on the army’s continued dominance of the top jobs.

“These army commanders have the experience and prestige to lead this transition and are safe choices.”

The political commissars of Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Shenyang will stay on as the commissars of the new commands.

The exception is the central command, where Lieutenant General Han Weiguo, 60, has been promoted to commander, and Yin Fanglong, 62, former deputy chief of the General Political Department is the new commissar.

“Commanders with battle experience have been put in areas with a high risk of war but the selections for the central command reflect more concern about maintaining stability,” Yue said.