China’s military is stepping up the pace of a massive reshuffle among its leadership ahead of a Communist Party congress later this year as President Xi Jinping consolidates his power within the armed forces, according to sources familiar with the matter. Nearly 50 senior officers are due to leave their positions as part of the shake-up, including 18 full-ranking generals, two independent sources told the South China Morning Post . The coming changes are aimed at promoting a new generation of officers, with veterans giving way to younger talent to take over the leadership, one source said. China’s military mounts propaganda push as officers brace for demotions Many of the officers due to step down are nearing retirement age ahead of the 19th National Congress due to be held in Beijing this autumn. The names of the officers likely to step down were also circulated on social media among retired military officials and people with close links to the PLA. The officers likely to go include General Liu Yazhou, a political commissar of the PLA’s National Defence University who is a prominent author on military matters, plus General Cai Yingting, the president of the army’s Academy of Military Science, according to the sources. The cuts at the two military colleges suggested they would soon be merged into one unit, the sources said. Two protégés of former president Jiang Zemin are also on the list to lose their posts: General Jia Tingan and General Du Jincai, the sources said. PLA overhaul could ‘destabilise’ Chinese society: Military officials fire warning shots over pay and pensions Hong Kong-based military expert Liang Guoliang said the reshuffle was part of Xi’s efforts to downsize the world’s largest armed forces and create a more nimble, professional and efficient fighting force. The reforms and cuts in personnel include this month’s PLA announcement that a new system would be introduced to simplify and make more efficient the military’s complex system of ranks. “The ongoing military overhaul has scrapped four general headquarters by replacing them with 15 small departments that are directly under the Central Military Commission, indicating the PLA doesn’t need so many high-ranking generals,” Liang said. Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the PLA’s Joint Staff Department, who represented China at a regional security forum in Singapore in 2015 and last year, plus General Li Zuocheng, the 63-year-old commanding officer of PLA’s ground forces, are among the 18 full generals to be laid off, according to the sources. Li was decorated during China’s war with Vietnam in 1979 and was generally regarded as Xi’s handpicked rising military star when he was named head of the former Chengdu Military Region four years ago. He might secure a role in the Central Military Commission either before or after the party congress this autumn, the sources suggested. The radical plan to turn China’s People’s Liberation Army into a modern fighting force Sun was tipped to replace Admiral Wu Shengli as Navy commander, but another source said Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, 60, was now the front runner to take the role. “Actually, there is an unwritten rule that almost all senior posts will only be offered to promising military officials under 63,” the source said. “Sun’s promotion chance has become so slim as he is now 65.” Shen cut his teeth in the PLA Navy’s North Sea Fleet as a destroyer detachment leader. He was promoted to president of the PLA Naval Command College in 2011 and commander of the South Sea Fleet in 2014. Four deputy heads of the Central Military Commission’s Joint Staff Department, including Sun, General Qi Jianguo, General Xu Fenlin and General Wang Guanzhong, plus three deputy heads of the commission’s Political Work Department, may also lose their posts under the reshuffle, the sources said.