Friday, July 5, 2013

New Tibet Area Commander: Maj. Gen. Xu Yong

During the Sichuan Earthquake
As A.K. Antony, the Indian Defence Minister arrives in China for a four-day visit, Beijing announced that Tibet has a new Military Area Commander. 
Major General Xu Yong was born in 1959 in Shaanxi province. He apparently participated in the Sino-Vietnamese war in 1979 as a young recruit.
He later climbed the PLA's ladder and successively became battalion commander, division commander and finally group army commander.
In 2007, General Xu was awarded the rank of major general and a year later, he was given the command of the Thirteenth Group Army.

His fame came he directed the rescue operations after the 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan (Sichuan) 
In the aftermath of the earthquake, 69,197 people were confirmed dead and 374,176 injured, while 18,222 listed were listed as missing.
His predecessor in Tibet, Lt. General Yang Jinshan has been promoted as a Deputy Commander of the Chengdu Military Region (MR)
General Yang is a member of the powerful CCP's Central Committee, which is not the case of General Xu.
Lt General Li Zuocheng, former Deputy Commander of Chengdu MR replaces  Lt. Gen. Li Shiming who was commanding the MR since September 2007.
More information on the new commander in Tibet appeared in an interview in in June 2008 after the earthquake.
This change of guard on the Indian border (eastern sector) is probably not linked to the utterances of the Major General Luo Yuan, deputy-director general of the world military research department at a PLA academy who told the media: “The Indian side should not provoke new problems and increase the military deployment at the border areas and start new trouble.”
The PLA has 3 or 4 of these loose canons who can be used when required, often to settle their own internal problems. 
The Indian Army is more disciplined. 
Interestingly, the Tibet Military Area (or District) has also a new Political Commissar, Maj. Gen. Diao Guoxin. Born in Jiangsu in 1958, General Diao Guoxin has been for many years posted in Chengdu MR. 
It appears that from 2004 to 2007 June, he was director of the Political Department of the Thirteenth Group Army.
In July 2006, he was promoted to the rank of major general.
In December 2010, he was nominated Political Commissar of the Thirteenth Group Army. He has therefore worked closely with his colleague, General Xu Yong.

Major General Xu Yong
June 20, 2008
After the May 12 earthquake, more than 100,000 soldiers were sent to the front lines of the disaster area to undertake the hardest relief efforts. Today, our reporter Zhao Yang will introduce us to the first high-ranking commander to arrive at the epicenter, major general of the People's Liberation Army, Xu Yong.
Xu Yong is a major general in the People's Liberation Army. When the earthquake hit Sichuan, he led his soldiers into the province right away. His prompt reaction made him the first high-ranking military official on the front lines of the rescue effort.
"We arrived at Dujiangyan on the night of May 12, the day the earthquake hit Sichuan. At that point, we didn't know the exact situation in the epicenter. Though the air force had already sent batches of reconnaissance planes, they all failed due to thick fog caused by constant rain.
To give headquarters firsthand information to devise rescue plans, we had to send soldiers into the epicenter on foot. A group of soldiers went in with the plan of reaching the epicenter by road. After they had been gone for some time without effective communications, I decided to lead another group to take shortcuts and try to get to the epicenter soon."
Aftershocks frequently shook the region, worsening the already devastating situation. The soldiers were beset by heavy rain, landslides and falling rocks. Under the extreme conditions, Xu Yong and his well-trained soldiers took two hours to cover just five kilometers of terrain. They finally arrived at the epicenter at nightfall the following day.
Yang Weidong was head of the first reconnaissance group. He was astonished to see his highest commander at the epicenter so soon, wearing only one shoe.
"The road situation was very dangerous. I knew that because I had just traveled it myself … The general is almost 50 years old, so how had he managed to cover the distance in such a short time? Even for a young man, it takes more than ten hours, and the last part of the journey was a real struggle against my physical limits."
Though already exhausted, the soldiers had barely begun their work. Xu Yong was faced with the dual tasks of keeping the command center informed of the local conditions and rescuing as many victims as possible.
"We didn't have time to rest, but if we absolutely need to sleep, we could only sleep for two or three hours a day. At first we had no tents, so we put up shacks or just laid down on the ground to sleep. If we were hungry, we ate cookies and drank bottled water. We didn't get vegetables for days, so many soldiers developed ulcers in their mouths. "
Xu Yong and his soldiers performed their task admirably under the rough conditions. They rescued many lives and opened up air, water, and ground channels to the epicenter for reinforcement troops. They also administered to health problems and epidemic prevention and helped resettle survivors.
But Xu Yong says he owes credit for the work to his soldiers. He says he was touched by their dedication.
"You know, many soldiers are still very young, and it hasn't been that long since they joined the army. But in the face of disaster, they behaved bravely. Buildings could have collapsed at any time, but my soldiers rushed inside to rescue trapped victims. They put their own lives at risk to save others."
No one can deny that Xu Yong's prompt and effective command played an important role in the rescue work. Xu Yong is well-known for his achievements in the army. He was graduated from the People's Liberation Army National Defense University, the highest academy in China for training military personnel. He spends all his spare time reading and doing academic research, and his articles are frequently published in military journals. Xu Yong also takes opportunities to engage with his foreign counterparts.
"I've been to many countries, including Germany, France, Greece and Switzerland, and I've learned so much from them. Switzerland's National Defense System and its model training in the Tank Center, and the Actual Combat Training in Germany all impressed me. "
Xu Yong applied some of these advanced tactics to his rescue work. He used the U.S. "leapfrog tactic" in the rescue work in villages and towns where access was completely blocked off. They dispatched helicopters to "leapfrog" to different relief sites, where they built up helicopter landing fields for subsequent troops while carrying rescue operations. The tactics turned out to be very successful.
Reflecting on what has happened in the past month, Xu Yong says the rescue work has inspired him for his future work.
"Sometimes, though many soldiers were there, we didn't know how to conduct rescue work under complex situations. I saw the key role professional rescue teams played, and I believe all soldiers should learn rescue skills and how to operate rescue equipment. Through these training plans, our army can take on more varied assignments in times of peace."

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