The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

As the world’s most pop­u­lous com­mu­nist state an­tic­i­pates a once-in-a-decade power trans­fer, a ma­jor lead­er­ship reshuf­fle in the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) took place qui­etly two weeks ago.

All four chiefs of the PLA’s four main pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary com­mands — the Gen­eral Staff and the de­part­ments of Gen­eral Po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs, Gen­eral Lo­gis­tics and Gen­eral Ar­ma­ments — saw their lead­ers re­placed by new com­man­ders, some of them of lit­tle renown to most out­side ob­servers.

The four com­mands work di­rectly un­der China’s ul­ti­mate mil­i­tary author­ity, the Com­mu­nist Party’s Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, which is led by the gen­eral sec­re­tary of the party.

These units are the pri­mary op­er­a­tional man­agers for China’s mil­i­tary af­fairs and form the essence of the party’s mil­i­tary com­mand.

For the first time in the PLA’s his­tory, none of the four com­mand po­si­tions were filled by mem­bers of the se­nior brass with ex­pe­ri­ence at PLA head­quar­ters in Bei­jing. All four hail from the PLA’s re­gional com­mands, which are rich in op­er­a­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

At the top is the new chief of the Gen­eral Staff, Gen. Fang Fenghui, 61, who held the post of com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the Bei­jing Mil­i­tary Re­gion. He will be the key PLA of­fi­cial for the next party lead­er­ship team, in charge of mil­i­tary pro­grams and op­er­a­tions.

Equiv­a­lent to the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Fang di­rectly re­ports to the chair­man of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, mak­ing him the most im­por­tant pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary of­fi­cer in China.

Gen. Zhang Yang now will be in charge of the PLA’s Depart­ment of Gen­eral Po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs, which is re­spon­si­ble for ide­o­log­i­cal in­doc­tri­na­tion, pro­pa­ganda and in­ter­nal mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline.

The scan­dal-prone, lu­cra­tive Depart­ment of Gen­eral Lo­gis­tics now is headed by Gen. Zhao Keshi, for­merly com­man­der of the Nan­jing Mil­i­tary Re­gion.

This depart­ment is in charge of mil­i­tary con­struc­tion, base and bar­racks main­te­nance, and gen­eral wel­fare of the PLA. It has ac­cess to enor­mous as­sets and funds within China’s no­to­ri­ously loose in­ter­nal con­trol and au­dit­ing sys­tems.

Sev­eral se­nior lead­ers in this depart­ment, most re­cently Lt. Gen. Gu Jun­sheng, the vice chief, were sacked on cor­rup­tion charges over the last sev­eral years.

Gen. Zhang Youxia, for­merly com­man­der of the Shenyang Mil­i­tary Re­gion, will be in charge of China’s mas­sive Depart­ment of Gen­eral Ar­ma­ments. He is a “Red princeling” whose fa­ther, Gen. Zhang Zongxun, was chief of PLA Gen­eral Lo­gis­tics un­der Mao Ze­dong in the 1970s.

The PLA lead­er­ship reshuf­fle is widely viewed as the last ma­jor ef­fort be­fore the Nov. 8 meet­ing of the 18th Party Congress by the cur­rent leader, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Hu Jin­tao, to put his stamp on the fu­ture of the PLA.

State-con­trolled me­dia made spe­cial men­tion of the fact that Mr. Hu per­son­ally signed the ap­point­ment or­ders pro­mot­ing these four key gen­er­als.

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