Xi consolidates hold on Chinese military with new promotions

Chinese President Xi Jinping has consolidated his hold over the military by promoting six more officers to the highest rank of Generals.

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping has consolidated his hold over the military by promoting six more officers to the highest rank of Generals in the second reshuffle after he took over power less than six months ago.

Military experts said the promotions, that preceded Thursday`s 86th anniversary of the founding of the People`s Liberation Army (PLA), indicated that Xi was continuing to consolidate his grip over the military.

Cai Yingting, 59, the chief of the Nanjing Military Region, and Xu Fenlin, the commander of the Guangzhou Military Region, were awarded their ranks by Xi in his capacity as Chairman of the PLA`s Central Military Commission (CMC) here yesterday, the PLA Daily reported.

Cai and Xu were among six senior PLA officers promoted to full Generals, the mouth-piece of the Chinese military said.

The others were Wu Changde, deputy chief of the PLA General Political Department; Wang Hongyao, political commissar of the General Armament Department; Sun Sijing, political commissar of the Academy of Military Sciences; and Liu Fulian, political commissar of the Beijing Military Area Command.

The six Generals are the second batch of senior PLA officers formally elevated by Xi since he became chief of the military late last year.

Xi, 60, first took over as General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) last year as well as head of the military by becoming the Chairman of the Military Commission, the premier body that controls armed forces.

He later took over as President from his predecessor Hu Jintao in March this year.
Observers say that he has emerged as the most powerful leader after late Deng Xiaoping who succeeded Mao Zedong in the late seventies.

Commenting on the new promotions, Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said the promotions showed Xi was anxious to build his own team of PLA leaders, with Cai and Xu being two rising stars who will become his key aides in the Army.

"The promotion took place on the eve of the PLA`s founding anniversary, highlighting the importance of these six Generals, who will help Xi implement reforms in the army," Wong told South China Morning Post.

Ahead of today`s 86th anniversary of the PLA, Xi spoke of "shelving disputes" with neighbours, sparking speculation that China would tone down its aggressive military strategy in the South China Sea as well as in the East China Sea where it is locked in disputes with Japan and several other countries.

"The country will adhere to the policy of shelving disputes and carrying out joint development" for areas over which China owns sovereign rights, while also promoting mutually beneficial and friendly co-operation and seeking and expanding common converging interests with other countries, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying at a high level ruling Politburo meeting of the ruling Communist Party meet here today.

His remarks marks a significant departure from a very aggressive policy pursued by China in the last two years in asserting its claims over the South China Sea, besides maritime disputes with Japan over the islands jointly claimed by both the countries.

Observers say his comments were more on the lines of China`s late moderate leader Deng Xiaoping who after taking over from Mao Zedong reported to have suggested to various countries, including India and Japan, to shelve the disputes to pursue development.