IAt early stages On April 28, 1984, a young Chinese military officer led an infantry regiment to launch an attack on Vietnamese troops ambushing in the mountains on the southern border of China. The battle of Laoshan was one of the bloodiest skirmishes in a decade since China’s four-week war with Vietnam in 1979 — the latest war waged by Chinese forces. Like war, there is no clear winner in this battle. But it forged the reputation of the head of the regiment, and nearly four decades later he has become the most trusted military adviser to China’s top leader, Xi Jinping.
After the party congress, which ends on October 22, which is held every five years, General Zhang Youxia was reappointed as vice chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission, cementing that position. Many had expected him to retire. At 72, he is the oldest person to hold the post in nearly 30 years. But his re-election reflects two of Xi’s clear priorities for his military: readiness and unwavering loyalty.
Xi underscored those priorities in a report to the congress that warned of a “dangerous storm” approaching and unabashedly attacked U.S. support for Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by China. Citing “brutal provocations” involving “external interference” in Taiwan affairs, Xi Jinping urged the People’s Liberation Army (People’s Liberation Army) to speed up the modernization process and achieve near-term goals before China’s 100th anniversary in 2027.He has mentioned the goal before, but its inclusion in the convention reinforces a view among U.S. officials that Xi Jinping has ordered People’s Liberation Army Develop the ability to occupy Taiwan by then (although there is disagreement on when (if ever) he might try to do so).
He also pledged in new language to develop “unmanned, intelligent combat capabilities” and strengthen China’s nuclear forces.He made new pledges to bolster his authority as chairman of the military council and encourage People’s Liberation Army Officers learn more about the history, while reemphasizing the need for “political loyalty” in the armed forces.
General Zhang is uniquely qualified to help achieve these goals.First, he was one of the few People’s Liberation Army Commander with actual combat experience. Although the Maoist mass offensive tactics used against Vietnam have little to do with modern combat, his experience still puts him in the shoes of his colleagues and Xi Jinping. General Zhang has also overseen key areas of weapons acquisition and development for half of the past decade. Most importantly, though, he is an old friend of Xi Jinping. Their fathers were both revolutionary commanders who fought together in Northwest China. After the Communist victory in 1949, they entered the same elite circles in Beijing.
It is vital for Xi to have a trusted and respected general by his side and he needs the government’s unquestionable support People’s Liberation Army As he begins an unconventional third term as party leader without a named successor. The successor used to be the sole civilian vice-chairman of the military council, determined in part by appointment, as Xi Jinping was in 2010. But the new committee has no civilian staff, except for Mr. Xi. This has given unusual personal authority to General Zhang, the most senior of the two uniformed vice-chairmen who will run the committee. People’s Liberation Army When Mr. Xi is busy (and he often is, in charge of so much). James Char of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore said Chinese leaders “need politically credible generals with hard combat experience”. “I think Zhang Youxia is really the person Xi Jinping relies on to govern.”
His vice chairman, General He Weidong, 65, was another surprise. He was appointed to that post and the 24-member Politburo after the congress, though he had not previously served on the military council or the party’s Central Committee, a body of some 370 senior officials and dignitaries. He also comes from a revolutionary family and has a personal relationship with Mr. Xi, where he served most of Mr. Xi’s 17 years as a senior Fujian official. But his appointment is thought to have more to do with his recent experience overseeing operations related to Taiwan and India.
For the two years leading up to January 2022, General Ho led the Eastern Theater Command, which is responsible for Taiwan affairs and has been at the forefront of promoting joint operations across the services. During that time, he oversaw the escalation of military flights around Taiwan, as well as the island-seizure exercise. Most recently, he worked in the Joint Operations Command Center of the Military Council. Some experts believe he oversaw the large-scale maneuvers around Taiwan after the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited the island in August. General Ho also led the ground forces of the Western Theater Command in 2017, during which a series of border clashes with India have escalated since then, making it a potential flashpoint as well.
Further appointments to the military council reflected similar priorities, but one stood out: General Lee Sang-bok (son of another revolutionary commander). He has an extensive background in aerospace technology. He worked in China’s main satellite launch center for 31 years, including 10 years as director, and succeeded General Zhang to head the department responsible for military equipment.
In the eyes of many, the new military council is like a “Taiwan War Council”, People’s Liberation Army US National Defense University expert. “It’s equally interesting to me to have two people who don’t know much about the operation but who know the equipment inside out. That’s going to be a really big thing as they move to self-sufficiency and with the us Access to advanced technology in China is being tightened. “
The appointment of General Lee also brought new troubles to the United States. He is expected to become defense minister, handling military relations with other countries. After Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China suspended high-level military talks with the United States. If the dialogue is to resume, they must now also find a way to bypass the sanctions imposed by the United States on General Lee in 2018 for his involvement in the purchase of Russian weapons.
Xi likely hopes that General Li’s expertise will help negotiate more arms purchases from Russia and help sell Chinese arms to countries such as Pakistan. But the appointment also reinforces the signal that Mr. Xi has other options. In short, China is preparing for confrontation. ■
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