Young star tipped to become political commissar for PLA’s western command

The appointment of Lieutenant General Wu Shezhou would make him one of two top officers for a highly strategic region

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 8:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 11:17pm

Sources say a young PLA star is heavily favoured to become the top political commissar of the Western Theatre Command, which oversees the restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and handles border issues with India.

The possible appointment comes amid high-level reshuffles in the military ahead of a key, once-every-ten-years party congress this year.

Lieutenant General Wu Shezhou, until recently the army political commissar for the Central Theatre Command, was seen sitting side by side with the western theatre commander, General Zhao Zhongqi, during an exercise aired on state television on Saturday.

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The report did not say what capacity Wu was attending the exercise in, but a source said he had already reported for duty at his new job.

“Lieutenant General Zhu Fuxi has recently been removed from his position of political commissar of the Western Theatre Command. The void left by Zhu will very likely be filled by Lieutenant General Wu Shezhou,” a Beijing-based military source said.

Another source close to the Southern Theatre Command said Wu had a good chance to be the top political officer in the western command.

Created last year after President Xi Jinping started his overhaul of the PLA, the western command largely combines the former Lanzhou and Chengdu military regions. Apart from Xinjiang and Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai and Chongqing are also in its jurisdiction.

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Born in 1958, Wu would become the youngest among the ten officers-in-charge for the PLA’s five theatre commands. He served in the former Guangzhou military region for decades before becoming head of the political department for the former Jinan military region in late 2014. Wu was promoted to a lieutenant general in August.

His would be the third recent appointment of top officers for the five theatre commands. Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, 60, and Lieutenant General Fan Xiaojun, 61, were made the commander of the Southern Theatre Command and the political commissar of the Northern Theatre Command respectively over the past couple of weeks.

With the appointments, Yuan, Fan and Wu will very likely secure full membership in the Communist Party’s elite Central Committee during the party’s 19th national congress.

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The departure of Zhu from the western command has raised some eyebrows. He became the command’s political commissar when it was set up early last year, and was promoted to a full general in July. Zhu, 61, is still a few years away from his rank’s retirement age of 65.

The second source also revealed that Rear Admiral Yu Guang had recently been made deputy chief of the Political Work Department, affiliated with the Central Military Commission. Yu was formerly an assistant to the head of the Political Work Department. He was the publisher of the PLA Daily from mid-2013 to late 2014.

Lieutenant General Hou Hehua, the former deputy political commissar of the PLA’s ground force, and Lieutenant General Zhang Shuguo, the former head of the Political Department under the PLA army, had been named the deputy heads of the Political Work Department earlier.