China has completed the reshuffle of the heads of its major military regions, promoting younger officers to replace retired ones ahead of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CCP) next week.
Among the heads of the seven military area commands of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) -Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu, five commanders and three political commissars have been changed.
The People's Daily yesterday published on its website a complete list of the new leadership.
Among the promoted military brass, Fang Fenghui, 56, former chief of staff in Guangzhou Military Area Command, replaced 65-year-old Zhu Qi to be commander of Beijing Military Area Command, while 60-year-old Zhao Keshi, former chief of staff in Nanjing Command which covers the Taiwan Straits, was promoted to commander.
Zhang Qinsheng, 59, a former deputy chief of the PLA's general staff, has taken over from 63-year-old Liu Zhenwu as commander of Guangzhou military area, and former deputy commander in Chengdu Li Shiming, also 59, replaced 65-year-old Wang Jianmin to be the commander there.
In the northwestern Lanzhou Command, former chief of staff Wang Guosheng, 60, replaced former commander 65-year-old Li Qianyuan.
Political commissars in Lanzhou, Nanjing and Guangzhou military commands have also been changed, while the leadership in Shenyang and Jinan military regions remain the same.
After the reshuffle, the average age of the commanders has dropped to 59 from 63.
Chen Zhou, a researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences, said the personnel change was very significant because military area commands are important regional PLA headquarters in both peace and war.
He said the country used to have more than 10 military area commands, but they were reduced to the existing seven after the great PLA disarmament in 1985.
Recently, the PLA promoted Xu Qiliang to Commander of the Air Force and Chen Bingde as Chief General Staff.
The latest round of change in military leadership comes before the all-important 17th National Congress of CPC.
(China Daily October 10, 2007)