Xi Jinping promoted seven military and armed police officers to the rank of general on Jan. 21. An expert believes that Xi is focused on building his loyalists, rather than high caliber military personnel.
The seven newly promoted officers cover the Northern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Central Theater Command of the PLA, the PLA Army, the PLA Navy, the PLA Rocket Force, and the People’s Armed Police Force.
Since Xi took power, the Chinese military has gone through a large-scale anti-corruption campaign—removing several high ranking officers, including two former vice chairs of the central military commission (CMC)—and military reform.
Consequently, the Chinese military is filled with many young generals.
Those newly promoted generals were all born in the 1960s.
Since 2012, Xi has promoted 67 military officers to the rank of general.
The PLA qualifications for promotion to the rank of general include serving at least four years at the rank of a lieutenant general or at least two years in military region commander-grade positions. The promotion ceremony usually takes place around Army Day on Aug. 1.
This routine has changed in recent years. The promotion in military rank now occurs before the person has served the requisite time in a certain rank. This personnel arrangement has rarely been reported.
Chinese affairs expert Shi Zangshan believes that Xi Jinping is very worried; not about how many officers he can control, but how many of his loyalists are eligible for promotion.
Shi said: “First of all, Xi himself has no military background. There are probably very few he can trust. This can be seen from the frequent replacement of officers at various ranks in recent years. The key is whether or not Xi can trust them. Secondly, Xi can’t find a leader qualified for modern war.”
By Shi’s analysis, military reform involves becoming information-based within the PLA. That means a general should be familiar with modern combat, not just the forces of army, navy, and air, but also satellites, rockets, information-based operations, electronic operations, mechanization of the army, and the missile force.
He explained that those who are familiar with modern warfare and tech are around age 40, but those eligible for promotion to CMC are closer to 60 years old. That’s 20 years of difference. “Those who have been trained by the National Defense University over the years are about 40 years old,” Shi stated.
However, there’s no place for those young officers at the CMC. It will continue to be members of the same group of old people who fill the spots at the CMC even though those old cadres won’t know anything about an all-out modern war.
“What Xi can do now is just occupy the seats with the people who are absolutely reliable,” Shi said.