Xi in Control of Military Service Branches After Appointing New Commanders

In the lead up to the 19th Party Congress, Xi Jinping has been replacing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) service branch commanders:

  • Dec. 31, 2015: General Gao Jin, the former president of the PLA Academy of Military Science, was promoted to PLA Strategic Support Force commander.
  • January 2017: Admiral Shen Jinlong, the former South Sea Fleet commander, was promoted to PLA Navy commander.
  • August 2017: Lt. General Ding Laihang, the former commander of the Northern Theater Command Air Force, was promoted to PLA Air Force commander. General Han Weiguo of the Central Theater Command was promoted to PLA Ground Force commander.
  • September 2017: Lt. General Zhou Yaning, the former PLA Rocket Force deputy commander, was promoted to Rocket Force commander.

All five generals were promoted by Xi after he took office in 2012. Gao Jin and Han Weiguo received exceptional promotions to the rank of General this July.

Why it matters: Historically, Communist Party leaders are only fully in command of the Party when they have the military firmly under their control. Xi has spent the last five years consolidating his control over the military by instituting comprehensive reforms and reshuffling top personnel.

Our take: There are two reasons why Xi appears to be very determined in carrying out military reform in the lead up to the 19th Party Congress:

  • It is easier to reform the military, a closed system where orders must be obeyed, during peacetime.
  • Xi needs the military under his sway to ensure that the personnel arrangements at the 19th Congress go in his favor.

Contact us for more about Xi Jinping’s military reforms.