High-Level Personnel Changes Continue Professionalization of the Chinese Military

Publication: China Brief Volume: 11 Issue: 2

Liu Yuan (L) and Mao Xinyu (R)

In the latest round of high-level personnel changes in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), more appointments of key posts appear to be going to younger and more professionally trained military officers. These changes, which involve top positions in the PLA’s four general headquarters, major regional commands and military branches, were confirmed by the Ministry of National Defense on January 23 (Chongqing Evening News, January 24; Wen Wei Po [Hong Kong], January 24). This development reflects a broader trend toward Chinese military professionalization that may help improve expertise, systemize career patterns within the military leadership, and perhaps most importantly, reinforce the party’s authority over the military.

Four high-ranking military officers were upgraded to top posts in the PLA General Departments. These officers came from high grades within the major military regions, different military branches and academies. Chinese media reports made note of the fact that many in this new class of military officers were born in the 1950s and 60s, and not only have substantial field experiences, but also come from strong scientific research and academic backgrounds (Wen Wei Po, January 24, Global Times, January 25).

Liu Guozhi, 50, was appointed the new deputy director of the PLA’s General Armament Department (GAD). The Chongqing Evening News described Liu as a "rare young leader at a major military command region level." The Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper referred to Liu as a leading expert in nuclear technologies who served as an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2009. Liu succeeds Han Yanlin, 62, who became the deputy director of the GAD’s committee on science and technology (Global Times, January 25).

Wei Fenghe, 56, a lieutenant general and former chief-of-staff at the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps (SAC), or the Strategic Missile Forces, is now the youngest deputy chief of the PLA’s General Staff Headquarters (Global Times, January 25).

Liu Yuan, 60, son of former Chinese helmsmen Liu Shaoqi, became the political commissar of the PLA’s General Logistics Department (GLD). Liu served as a village-level official in Henan province in the 1980s then in the Armed Police Force Headquarters, and most recently in the PLA Academy of Military Sciences before his recent promotion (Global Times, January 25). Liu succeeds Sun Dafa, 66. There have been reports that Liu Yuan has friendly relations with CMC Vice Chairman Xi Jinping, leading to some speculation that this appointment may pave the way for Liu’s elevation into the Central Military Commission at the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (United Daily News [Taiwan], January 25).

Liu Xiaorong, 61, former deputy political commissar of the Lanzhou Military region succeed Sun Sijing, 60, as deputy political commissar of the GOLD and secretary of the Discipline Inspection Committee (Chongqing Evening News, January 24)

The latest round of personnel changes also involve the adjustment of more than 20 high-ranking military officers from the major military regions and braches. According to a tabulation of the new appointments by Chongqing Evening News, drawn from official military sources, this round of personnel changes that were reportedly made in December of last year, also added an additional deputy level grade post within the Nanjing Military Region, Guangzhou Military Region, as well as the Navy and Second Artillery Corps (United Daily News, January 25). Moreover, the Navy, Second Artillery Corps and People’s Armed Police (PAP) all had adjustments made to top posts within their leadership.

In the case of the Navy, the former Navy chief-of-staff, Su Shiliang, was promoted to deputy commander of the PLA Navy; the number of deputy commanders was increased from four to five; the commander of the East Sea Fleet, Du Jingchen, was promoted to Navy chief-of-staff; and the commanders of the East Sea and South Sea Fleets were simultaneously changed (Chongqing Evening News, January 24).

On balance, these personnel changes reflect a continuation in the professionalization of the senior Chinese officer corps, and the technocratic transition that has been occurring across the entire Chinese political and military system under the Hu Jintao administration. It also follows in line the well known Deng Xiaoping dictum that party personnel arrangements of senior officials should hail from "the five lakes and four seas," in other words, military officers must be drawn from all corners of the country. The latest round of personnel changes is also significant in the run-up to the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012. From a political-military perspective, it is interesting that President Hu is pushing personnel changes in the military establishment at this time. While it may be "routine to rearrange military leaders of important positions before every National Congress" to strengthen the party’s control over the army (Global Times, January 25), against the backdrop of an uptick in Sino-U.S. tension in recent years, the latest shuffle may also be an attempt by Hu to reign in hawkish elements within the military.

Table: Personnel Changes in the Military Regions and Branches


Military Rank

Current Grade



Su Shiliang

Rear Admiral

Deputy Commander, Navy

Chief-of-Staff, Navy

Wu Guohua

Major General

Deputy Commander, SAC

Director, General Staff Headquarters

Lu Fuen

Major General

Chief-of-Staff, SAC

Base Commander, SAC

Wang Changhe

Major General

Deputy Political Commissar, PAP

Political Commissar, PAP Forestry Command


 Zhu Yimin

Lieutenant General

Political Commissar, Shenyang Military Region

Director, Nanjing Military Region Political Department

Wang Xiaojun

Major General

Deputy Commander, Shenyang Military region

Director, Guangzhou Military Region GLD

Zhang Baoshu

Lieutenant General

Deputy Commander, Beijing Military Region

Chief-of-Staff, Beijing Military Region

Wang Ning

Major General

Chief-of-Staff, Beijing Military Region

Commander of Group Army, Nanjing Military Region

Cui Changjun

Major General

Director, Beijing Military Region Political Bureau

Political Commissar, Chengdu Military Region Group Army

Zhang Guodong

Lieutenant General

Deputy Political Commissar, Lanzhou Military Region

Director, Lanzhou Military Region Political Bureau

Miau Hua

Major General

Director, Lanzhou Military Region Political Bureau

Political Commissar, Nanjing Military Region Group Army

Qin Weijiang

Major General

Deputy Commander, Nanjing Military Region

Commander, Beijing Military Region Group Army

Wu Gang

Major General

Deputy Political Commissar, Nanjing Military Region

Political Commissar, Beijing Military Region Group Army

Wu Changhai

Major General

Director, Nanjing Military Region Political Bureau

Political Commissar, Shengyang Military region GLD

Xing Shucheng

Major General

Commander, Guangzhou Military Region

Commander, Jilin Province Military Region

Sources: Chongqing Evening News, January 24 (Central Television "Military Reports," Jiefangjun Bao, and Official newspaper from military branches)