Xi im­print on PLA del­e­gates to the party’s 19th Congress

90% of the del­e­gates are new, in­clud­ing the as­tro­naut Jing Haipeng and song and dance troupe mem­ber Lei Jia, who is a stu­dent of Xi Jin­ping’s wife.

The Sunday Guardian - - & Comment Analysis -

Chi­nese President and Military Com­mis­sion Chair­man Xi Jin­ping’s im­print is clearly vis­i­ble on the list of the 253 del­e­gates se­lected by the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) to rep­re­sent it at the 19th Congress of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party (CCP) sched­uled to open in Bei­jing on 18 Oc­to­ber 2017.

Co­in­cid­ing with the re­lease of the list of PLA del­e­gates on 6 Septem­ber 2017, China’s au­thor­i­ta­tive of­fi­cial news agency Xin­hua clar­i­fied that the can­di­dates from among whom the del­e­gates were se­lected by mem­bers of the CCP in the PLA had been ap­proved by Xi Jin­ping in May 2017, or more than three months ear­lier and well before the face-off with India on the Dok­lam plateau be­gan. This con­firms that Xi Jin­ping had de­cided to re­place Gen­eral Fang Fenghui as Chief of the Joint Staff De­part­ment un­der the Cen­tral Military Com­mis­sion ( CMC) and Gen­eral Zhang Yang, for­mer Direc­tor of the PLA’s Gen­eral Po­lit­i­cal De­part­ment, with his nom­i­nees much ear­lier. It also con­firms that re­ports claim­ing that Fang Fenghui had been re­moved be­cause he was op­posed to the with­drawal of troops from the over 70- day long face- off with India on the Dok­lam Plateau are with­out ba­sis.

Of in­ter­est to India is that of the PLA’s five The­atre Com­mands, Gen­eral Zhao Zongqi, Com­man­der of the West­ern The­atre Com­mand de­ployed op­po­site India’s bor­der with China, is a del­e­gate along with the Com­man­ders of the North­ern, East­ern and South­ern The­atre Com­mands.

Sim­i­larly in­ter­est­ing is the in­clu­sion among the del- egates of Ma­jor Gen­eral Liu Geping, Com­man­der of the PLA Ali Military Sub-Dis­trict un­der the West­ern The­atre Com­mand. Liu Geping was Com­man­der of the Ali Military Sub-Dis­trict in April 2013 and again in Septem­ber 2014, when PLA troops car­ried out ex­tended in­tru­sions into the Dep­sang plains and Chu­mar, both in Ladakh. In April 2013, the in­tru­sion, and en­su­ing stand-off, was called off just days before the ar­rival of Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang in India. The in­tru­sion by PLA troops at Chu­mar in Ladakh co­in­cided and con- tin­ued till well af­ter Chi­nese President Xi Jin­ping’s visit to India in Septem­ber 2014. Liu Geping’s pro­mo­tion as Ma­jor Gen­eral and list­ing as a del­e­gate sug­gest his ca­reer is on track and dis­miss re­ports that these and sim­i­lar in­tru­sions do not have the ap­proval of Xi Jin­ping and the CMC.

The list of the PLA and Peo­ple’s Armed Po­lice Force ( PAP)’s del­e­gates was re­leased two months af­ter the CCP re­leased its own list of del­e­gates to the 19th Congress. Un­like at the 18th Party Congress in Novem­ber 2012, when there was only one Ti­betan in the PLA’s list, this time there are three Ti­betans in­clud­ing Ti­dan Dan, a Deputy Com­man­der in the Ti­bet Military Re­gion.

Ninety per cent of the PLA and PAP del­e­gates are new, in­clud­ing the as­tro­naut Jing Haipeng, the CMC Po­lit­i­cal Work De­part­ment song and dance troupe mem­ber Lei Jia, who is a stu­dent of Xi Jin­ping’s wife Peng Liyuan, and the Chi­nese Navy’s first fe­male Vice Cap­tain Wei Huix­iao. Of­fi­cers pro­moted ear­lier this Au­gust like the new PLA Army Com­man­der Han Weiguo, PLA Army Po­lit­i­cal Com­mis­sar Liu Lei, PLA Air Force Com­man­der Ding Lai­hang and PLA Air Force Po­lit­i­cal Com­mis­sar Yu Zhongfu, who have all known Xi Jin­ping since his days as provin­cial Party Sec­re­tary, are also listed among the del­e­gates, fur­ther con­firm­ing that their el­e­va­tions had been de­cided months ago. The fail­ure of Fang Fenghui and Zhang Yang to make the list of the PLA del­e­gates when other CMC mem­bers due to re­tire at the up­com­ing 19th Congress, like Chang Wan­quan, Wu Shengli, Ma Xiao­tian and Fan Chang­long are in­cluded, lends cre­dence to re­ports cir­cu­lat­ing since mid-Au­gust that the two are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion on charges of cor­rup­tion. Four of the se­nior PLA of­fi­cers listed among the 253 del­e­gates have par­tic­i­pated in the Sino-Viet­namese war, in­clud­ing the new head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff un­der the CMC, Li Zuocheng, the CMC Direc­tor of Equip­ment De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment Zhang Youxia, and Liu Yue­jun and Zhao Zongqi.

Among the new del­e­gates is Zhong Shao­jun, who was born in 1968 and is a long­time per­sonal sec­re­tary of Xi Jin­ping. In 2013, he was seen wear­ing a PLA uni­form with a colonel’s badges of rank. He is presently Deputy Direc­tor of the Gen­eral Of­fice for the Cen­tral Military Com­mis­sion and Direc­tor of the Of­fice for Xi Jin­ping, Chair­man of the Cen­tral Military Com­mis­sion. Zhong Shao­jun is now a Ma­jor Gen­eral in the PLA.

In­dica­tive of Xi Jin­ping’s stated em­pha­sis on pro­mot­ing of­fi­cers who are po­lit­i­cally re­li­able, pro­fes­sion­ally com­pe­tent, or ex­pe­ri­enced in bat­tle or Military Oper­a­tions Other than War (MOOTW), Xin­hua on 23 May 2017, re­ported that more than 72% of can­di­dates are aged un­der 55, al­most 99% have a col­lege de­gree or above and 98% have been awarded third-class or above merit ci­ta­tions. Jayadeva Ranade is a for­mer Ad­di­tional Sec­re­tary in the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tariat, Gov­ern­ment of India and is President of the Cen­tre for China Anal­y­sis and Strat­egy.

Of in­ter­est to India is that of the PLA’s fivE THE­AtrE Com­mAnDs, GEn­ErAl ZHAo ZonGqI, Com­mAn­DEr oF tHE WEst­Ern THE­AtrE Com­mAnD DE­ployED op­po­sItE InDIA’s Bor­DEr wItH CHInA, Is A DEl­E­GAtE.

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