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General Li Qiaoming joined the People’s Liberation Army at age 15. Photo: Weibo

China promotes General Li Qiaoming to commander of PLA ground force

  • He steps into new role after overseeing strategically important Northern Theatre Command, which borders Russia and North Korea
  • Li, 61, is relatively young for a top Chinese general and his promotion suggests the PLA is looking to lower the age profile of its top commanders
General Li Qiaoming, who previously led a key command bordering North Korea and Russia, has been named the new commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ground force.
The 61-year-old Li made his first appearance in his new capacity on Tuesday, three months after stepping down from his role as commander of the Northern Theatre Command.
In a post shared by the ground force’s official WeChat account on Tuesday evening, Li was introduced as the commander of the PLA’s land-based branch during a ceremony to commence training in the new year, which was attended by over 1,000 soldiers.

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Born in the landlocked Henan province, Li joined the army at the age of 15 and for years served in the Guangzhou Military Region, which was disbanded in 2016 and reorganised as the Southern Theatre Command. He held several key positions in the region, including chief of staff, corps commander and major general in the 41st Army.

In 2013, Li wrote an article in the state-owned political journal Red Flag Manuscript which argued that the Soviet Union had collapsed because the party disarmed itself.

“The Communist Party of the Soviet Union gave up its leadership over the army, and the army stood by at the country’s critical moment. In the end, the Soviet Union fell apart, and the [party] fell apart, the lesson is profound,” he wrote.

He continued to publish analyses of war and conflict strategies on topics including Russia’s operations to Crimea and Syria in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

After a major military reform in 2015 that created the five theatre commands, Li moved to the coastal province of Shandong to join the Northern Theatre Command as a lieutenant general. He was later promoted to commander of the theatre, a position he held for five years before stepping down in September 2022.

The Northern Theatre Command is one of the most strategically important, as it covers Inner Mongolia autonomous region and the provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang, which share borders with Mongolia, North Korea and Russia. It also includes Shandong, which sits across a narrow stretch of sea from the Korean peninsula. Its current commander is General Wang Qiang.

In December 2019, Li was promoted to the rank of general, the highest rank for officers in active service in China.

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In October, Li was re-elected as a member of the 20th Central Committee of the Communist Party. The Central Committee is the party’s top policymaking body and is responsible for electing the Politburo and its Standing Committee.
Li was preceded in the role by 58-year-old General Liu Zhenli, who served as ground force commander from June 2021 to December 2022.
Liu is now the chief of staff of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission, the PLA’s headquarters. Liu is China’s youngest top general and a veteran of the Sino-Vietnam border conflicts.

Li and Liu’s rise to power has been viewed as a sign that Beijing wants to put relatively younger leaders in prominent positions.