Sunday, June 7, 2020

New Changes in the Western Theater Command (updated)

On December 13, 2019, as the Corona virus had probably started spreading in Wuhan, Xi Jinping Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) promoted seven lieutenant generals to the rank of full general (‘Three Stars’). One of them was Lt Gen He Weidong who was transferred on promotion as commander of the Eastern Theater Command (ETC).
According to Xinhua News Agency, the promotion ceremony for the rank of general was held at the Beijing’s Bayi (PLA) Building and Chairman Xi issued the orders of promotion.
The officers promoted were He Weidong, Commander of the Eastern Theater, He Ping, Political Commissar of the Eastern Theater, Wang Jianwu, Political Commissar of the Southern Theater, Li Qiaoming, Commander of the Northern Theater, Zhou Yaning, Commander of the Rocket Army, Li Fengbiao, Commander of the Strategic Support Force and Military Dean of the Academy of Sciences Yang Xuejun.

Promotion of new generals
Xi’s Visit to Wuhan
Incidentally, on October 18, 2019, Xi Jinping flew to Wuhan to attend the first Party Congress of the PLA’s Joint Logistic Support Force (JLSF). Xinhua said that Xi Jinping encouraged the JLSF delegates and other senior officers stationed in Hubei province “to faithfully perform their duties and contribute to fulfilling the dream of a strong military.”
Did Xi know then that the JLSF would play a crucial role in the ‘war’ against the COVID-19, which erupted in the capital city of Hubei province just a month later, on November 17?
Did he know that there was something fishy going on around the wet fish market a few kilometers away, as well as the two laboratories located in Wuhan? There is no answer so far.

Military Reforms
In 2018, the Chinese media reported that the Tibet Military Command/Military District in the WTC had been elevated by one level compared to other provincial-level military districts and placed under the PLA Army (PLAA or PLAGF). The China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation explained: “Most provincial-level military districts are under the National Defense Mobilization Department of the CMC with responsibility for reserves, militia and conscription.”
In 2016 already, an article in The Global Times reported that the Tibet Military Command was responsible “for operations against India, at least in the Arunachal Pradesh area, training forces for specialized high-altitude mountain warfare and long-range mobility for such a contingency.”
The Xinjiang Military District (XMD) is also under PLAA (or PLAGF) command, “The current reforms and reorganization make the services responsible for force development and training their respective forces, which would appear to include the Army commands in the Tibet and Xinjiang Military Districts,” said the Jamestown Foundation.
What is interesting for India is the Gen He Weilong was previously deputy commander of the WTC and Commander of the WTC Army Component or Ground Force (GF). It shows the importance of the post.

General He Weidong
Who is General He Weidong?
According to Chinese websites, He Weidong was born in the town of Xuhe, in Dongtai, Jiangsu in May 1957.
After middle school, he enlisted in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in December 1972.
In 1981, he graduated from PLA Nanjing Army Command College and in 2001, he entered the National University of Defense Technology.
He served as deputy chief of staff of the Nanjing Military Region; commander of the Jiangsu Military District (July 2013 – March 2014); commander of the Shanghai Security District and member of the Standing Committee of the Shanghai Municipal Committee (March 2014 – February 2016).
Post military reforms, He Weidong was transferred and served as deputy commander and commander of the GF in the WTC (February 2016 – December 2019) as well as deputy secretary of the party committee of the GF in the WTC.
He was promoted to the rank of major general in July 2008; lieutenant general in July 2017 and general in December 2019. He was recently a delegate to National People's Congress.
Though theoritically, he has no operational control; he is only responsible for the training, equipment and manpower of the GF in the WTC, his promotion  as as full general and commander of the ETC shows that the post of commander of the WTC’s PLAGF is a crucial one for the WTC in general and for the Indian border in particular.

Lt Gen Xu Qiling
New Commander PLAGF of the WTC
In this perspective, it is extremely surprising that the post remained ‘vacant’ for more than five months.
It is only in May that it was announced that Lt Gen Xu Qiling had taken over as the new commander of the WTC's PLAGF.
This late appointment occurred at a time when the Chinese attack across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and Sikkim.
Had Gen Xu been brought in to coordinate the fronts in Sikkim and Ladakh?
It is difficult to know for certain.
According to the report of the WTC’s Official WeChat account, on May 29, the WTC held a meeting of the Standing Committee of the WTC’s Party Committee “to convey the spirit of learning the third meeting of the 13th National People's Congress.”
Lt Gen Xu Qiling, the new commander of the WTC PLAGF delivered the report and the WTC PLAGF’s Political Commissar Lt Gen Xu Deqing presided over the meeting. In China, the best way to know who is where and in which position are to read functions’ announcements. According to some other sources, Lt Gen Xu would have already been in his post in April.
In 2016, the People's Liberation Army established five theaters commands as part of the military reforms dear to President Xi Jinping. Xu Qiling (then Maj Gen) became the deputy commander of the PLAGF in the Central Theater (CTC).

Lt Gen Xu Qiling
Lt Gen Xu’s Biodata
Lt Gen Xu Qiling (Chinese: 徐起零) was born in Huaiyang District, Zhoukou, Henan in July 1963.
He served in Jinan Military Region for a long time before being transferred as commander of the 83rd Group Army.
He was deputy commander of the CTC in 2016, and held that office until March 2017, when he was appointed commander of the 79th Group Army.
He rose to become commander of the ETC’s PLAGF in December 2018, replacing Lt Gen Qin Weijiang.
On December 11, 2019, he was awarded the military rank of lieutenant general by Chairman Xi.
Like Lt Gen He Weilong, he was a delegate to the 13th National People's Congress.

Lt Gen Wang Qiang (Air Force)
Gen Xu Qiling's counterpart in the Air Force is Lt Gen Wang Qiang.
He was already a full-time deputy commander of the WTC; since May 8, he is hold the post of commander of the WTC PLA Air Force (PLAAF).
He replaces Lt Gen Zhan Houxun who has retired.
Lt Gen Wang Qiang, an Air Force officer, is also a fighter pilot.
He once served as a division commander of the Air Force Aviation Division of the Jinan Military Region, and deputy chief of staff of the Air Force of the Jinan Military Region (like his boss Gen Zhao Zhonqi).
In July 2014, while in Jinan, he was promoted to the rank of Major General of the PLAAF.
Following the military reform, in January 2016, he followed General Zhao in Chengdu and was promoted deputy chief of staff of the WTC and later chief of staff of the Air Force of the WTC.
In 2018, he was promoted to full-time deputy commander of the WTC.
In December 2019, he became a lieutenant general in the PLAAF.
The WTC Air Command is located in Chengdu.
Interestingly, Lt Gen Wang Qiang visited India in 2017 on the occasion of the Aero India 2017.
The Bangalore Mirror reported: “For the first time in the history of India’s premier military aviation show, Aero India, China will make its debut in the event’s five‐day 11th edition with a confirmed five‐member team. The Chinese team – all from People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), the Chinese Air Force – will be headed by Major General Wang Qiang. part from Maj Gen Qiang, the defence officials have confirmed the delegation comprising Senior Colonel Gao Zhikuan, Col Huang Xinyang, Lt Col Jiang Jiaji and Maj Li Yiu.”

General Zhao Zongqi
The Boss: Gen Zhao Zonqi
The WTC Commander, General Zhao Zongqi, is well-known in India for having commanded the Chinese troops during the Doklam episode.
Zhao Zongqi was born in Bin County , southern Heilongjiang Province in April 1955.
He joined the army in December 1970 and was incorporated into the 118th Regiment  40 Division of the 14th Army in the Yunnan Border Region .
During this period, Zhao Zongqi served as the squad leader, acting platoon leader, and regiment reconnaissance staff.
Later, he participated as a reconnaissance unit in the battlefield of the Sino-Vietnamese War Western Front, infiltrated 10 kilometers deep to collect intelligence, and assisted the 40th Division in the battle of Lao Cai and Ban Fei.
After the war, due to his merit, Zhao Zongqi was transferred to the Reconnaissance Division of the 40th Division. In the following two mountain battles , Zhao Zongqi led the team to support the 31st division of the 14th army and participated in the Yinshan battle.
In 2016, [then] Lt Gen Zhao Zongqi was transferred from Jinan Military Region (where he was the commander) to Chengdu (Sichuan), the WTC Headquarter; he became the first commander of the WTC.
Perhaps more importantly, General Zhao Zonqi served 20 years in the Tibet Military District (TMD). He knows every inch and corner of the Indian border, at least of the TMD, which includes the trijunction Bhutan-India-Tibet where the Doklam standoff took place; he is also probably aware of every inch of the frontier in Northern Sikkim (under Kampa Dzong district), particularly in the Naku La area which witnessed serious fist-fights between Indian and Chinese troops in April/May.
Zhao’s great knowledge of the border was an important factor when Beijing decided to open the Doklam front in 2017.
According to a Chinese website: "
In April 1992, Zhao Zongqi was transferred to the commander of the 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade in the Tibet Military Region (District). The 52nd Brigade was also one of the first brigades of the PLA undertaking reforms. Until 2003, Zongqi Zhao had been stationed in Tibet to work with the 52nd  Brigade. During this period, he insisted on strengthening the construction of Tibetan border posts, advocated large-scale military training in the army, and continuously improved the combat readiness of 52nd Brigade. In 1998, Zhao Zongqi was promoted to deputy chief of staff of the Tibet Military Region and soon became the chief of staff. In July 2001, he was promoted to the rank of major general from the rank of deputy military officer.
The 2016 restructuring of the PLA had an interesting feature, the former Military Regions (MRs) of Chengdu and Lanzhou were regrouped which means the entire Indian border thereafter came under one single command and not two as before.
One can see that the present operations in Ladakh or in Sikkim (and in Arunachal if necessary) can be synchronized under one command (under General Zhao Zongqi); it is a formidable advantage.
The brigadisation of the PLA is another advantage which makes the actions of the Chinese Army more flexible and responsive to new and complicated situations.
The WTC has two Military Districts dealing with India, the Tibet Military District and the Xinjiang Military District (XMD).

General Wu Shezhou
The Jinan Clique?
Where was Gen Zhao Zongqi before taking over the WTC?
From 2012 to 2016, he was commanding the Jinan Military Region (JMR).
The big shots of the WTC have served with him him in JMR.
We have mentioned Lt Gen Xu Qiling, but also is counterpart in the Air Force is Lt Gen Wang Qiang who served as a division commander of the Air Force Aviation Division of the Jinan Military Region, and deputy chief of staff of the Air Force.
It is also the case of No 2 in the WTC (practically equal to Zhao Zongqi), General Wu Shezhou, the WTC Polital Commissar.
He  was born in Hanchuan, Hubei Province in 1958, and served in the Guangzhou Military Region for most of his career.
He was Deputy Director of the Political Department of the Guangzhou MR until late 2012, when we was appointed Political Commissar of the Joint Logistics Department of the Guangzhou MR.
But in late 2014, he was transferred to the Jinan Military Region to serve as its Director of the Political Department.
In January 2017 Wu was promoted to WTC's Political Commissar, replacing General Zhu Fuxi.
The move was said to be unusual because of his age. At the time of his appointment Wu was the youngest of the ten top officers of China's five Theater Commands.
In October 2017, he was elected as a member of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and in May this year, he was a delegate to the NPC.
There is clearly a Jinan Clique on the frontiers of India.

Lt Gen Wang Haijiang

Another New Commander
Lt Gen Xu Yong who has been commanding the TMD for the past seven years, seems to have retired since a few months.
Lt Gen Wang Haijiang has taken his responsibilities.
Incidentally, Wang Haijiang attended the opening ceremony of the sixth India China Joint Training Exercise, Exercise Hand-in-Hand 2016, held at the parade ground in Aundh Military Camp in Pune.
The joint exercise was held in the presence of Major General Y K Joshi, Additional Director General, Military Operations (now Army Commander Northern Command responsible for Ladakh) and Wang Haijiang.

Who is Lt Gen Wang Haijiang?
Wang Haijiang (Chinese: 汪海江) was born in Anyue County, Sichuan in July 1963.
Wang participated in the Sino-Vietnamese War (he was 16??) and won first class merit. After war, he became secretary of Li Qianyuan, former Commander of the Lanzhou Military Region.
He served in the 76th Group Army since 1997.
Wang Haijiang served as the 61st Division Commander and Deputy Commander of the Southern Xinjiang Military Region. In January 2013 he was promoted to become Deputy Commander of the Nanjiang Military District, a position he held until 2016, when he was appointed Deputy Commander of the TMD.
On December 10, 2019, he was awarded the military rank of lieutenant general by Chairman Xi.
Like Gen He Weilong and Lt Gen Xu Qiling, he recently attended as a delegate the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing.
However, Lt Gen Xu Yong’s colleague and commander of the XMD, Lt Gen Liu Wanglong was not seen anywhere.

With [then] Maj Gen Joshi in Pune
Member of the TAR Standing Committee
On January 6, the newly promoted lieutenant general Wang Haijiang attended the Standing Committee of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
According to the Tibet Daily, the Third Session of the 11th CPPCC National Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region took place in Lhasa.
A Standing Committee meeting, headed by Wu Yingjie with Lobsang Gyaltsen, Che Dala, Ding Yexian and Wang Haijiang in attendance, was held.
Wang Haijiang was seated solemnly between Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of TAR and Executive Vice Chairman of the Government, and He Wenhao, another member of the TAR Standing Committee and Secretary of the Political and Legal Committee.
It has to be noted that the Commander of the TMD is only ranked No 6 in the Communist hierarchy of the Tibet Autonomous Region or TAR (after the party Secretary and the four Deputy Secretaries). This explains that the TMD Commander do not always attend the meetings of the Standing Committee.
On January 3, the TAR's Standing Committee of the People’s Congress had issued an announcement that Lt Gen Xu Yong had been transferred from Tibet.
In March 2018, Wang Haijiang who had earlier served as deputy commander of the TMD declared: "For individuals, struggling is a ladder to achieve their own growth; for the country, struggling is the driving force for development. I graduated from the college entrance examination in 1977; [I belong to] one of the first batches of students who took part in the college entrance examination to enter the military academy. Shortly after my graduation, I participated in the border self-defense counterattack operation, led officers and soldiers to the frontier position for reconnaissance many times, and won first-class merits for the bravery of the battle. I have witnessed that many comrades-in-arms have worked hard under the [PLA’s] organization and training, and they have contributed their due strength to the development of the PLA."
He further stated: "The military experience of the past 40 years has made me realize that the strength of the Army is closely related to the perseverance and perseverance of every officer and soldier. Practice has proved that the perseverance and dedication of each person struggling, create a happy life [for everybody] and at the same time, we realize the value and achievements of our country.”
The PLA also reported that Lt Gen Wang Haijiang had been squatting for 10 months on the frontier defense line at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters in 2017, leading officers and soldiers to build the Panshan Road in extreme weather and contribute to the construction of a border well-off village.
It looks like that there is a lot of ‘happenings’ in the WTC.
This did not stop the Chinese troops to cross the LAC and enter the Indian territory and use a level of violence rarely seen before.

During Zhurihe’s military parade in Inner Mongolia
Maj Gen Liu Lin
Maj Gen Lui Lin who met the 14 Corps Commander is commanding the Southern XMD (SXMD). He was earlier Chief of Staff of the SXMD, which exercises front-line responsibility and jurisdiction over the Hotan and Ngari Military Sub-Districts (Ladakh comes under Hotan Military Sub District).
On April 10, 1987, the Central Military Commission had established the ‘Southern Military Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army’ under the Xinjiang Military District. The SXMD itself is based in Kashgar.
On November 4, 2016, it was announced that the role of the SXMD was to be “stationed on the northwestern border of the motherland, guarding more than 900,000 square kilometers of the territory of the People’s Republic as well as the borderline of more than 3,500 kilometers.”
Li Lin was promoted to the rank of Major General in January 2015 and was transferred to the Deputy Commander of the SXMD the same year.Last year, the PLA media revealed that Major General Liu Lin had been promoted to commander of the South Xinjiang Military Region.

In 2017, Liu Lin had participated in the Zhurihe’s military parade in Inner Mongolia, as a leader of the self-propelled artillery team.
In an interview published in the ‘Military Report’ of the CCTV, Maj Gen Liu Lin explained: “President Xi requires that the soldiers be trained first, and the strong army first needs strong officers. The generals and the senior commanders need to be evaluated with strict and high standards. …[if this is done], we will better grasp the actual combat training of the troops.”
Liu Lin earlier served as the Commander of the XMD’s 8th Infantry Division.
In an interview, Liu Lin said being “a good team leader, it's not enough to stand at the top of the line, and more importantly, we must set up first-class standards.”

Maj Gen Liu Geping with his family in Ngari
Maj Gen Liu Geping
The case of Maj Gen Liu Geping is interesting.
It is said that Gen Liu is half Tibetan; it is not clear which one of his parents was Tibetan. But for official purpose, he is listed as a ‘Han’, it is safer for promotion.
For decades, Liu served in the South Xinjiang Military District.
He was commanding the Chinese forces during the major intrusions in April 2013 in the Depsang Plains just before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and in September 2014 in Chumar in Ladakh as President Xi Jinping arrived in Delhi/Ahmedabad.
At that time, Major General Li Haiyang was the commander of the SXMD.
Then a Senior Colonel, Liu Geping was commanding the Ngari (Ali) SMD, he was responsible for areas such as Chushul, Pangong tso, Demchok, Chumar and Shipkila Pass.
A Chinese website mentioned: “In early September 2014, Liu Geping received an order to force the troops to go to a certain area in the No. 6 area and perform a training exercise called ‘Operation Hurricane’."
It refers to the intrusions in Chumar sector in Ladakh.
An article describes thus the operation: “the task force, after receiving specific instructions while traveling, arranged forward the tasks of each detachment while advancing quickly. The zipper area was at a long distance, high altitude, low temperature, poor road conditions, and belongs to the no man's land area. In the course of the operation, it strictly required the actual combat conditions and took 375 hours.”
The operation was on Indian territory.
In 2015 , I mentioned on this blog, the 'coincidence' of the intrusions in Burtse in Ladakh sector.
Gen General Zhang Yang and then Senior Colonel Liu Geping were the main actors.

In July 2017, Liu was promoted to major general and transferred to Xinjiang as Commander of the Military Department of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. The responsibility of this Department was the recruitment, training, deployment and overall management of all militia units in Xinjiang, including guarding the Uighur ‘reform’ camps.
Recently, Liu Geping has taken over as commander of the Qinghai Military District.
An article in says that “he worked in hard and remote areas for a long time, successively served as the commander of the division of the Ngari Army. also commented: “Provincial military commander adjustment continued.”
Maj Gen Liu Geping with Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps
On May 8, the WeChat public account of the Qinghai Provincial National Defense Education Office published the "Survey of Commander Liu Geping from the Provincial Military Region to the Haibei Army Division Inspection and Investigation". The article revealed that the provincial military commander Liu Geping went to Haibei for a two-day investigation and investigation. This was Liu Geping's first appearance after taking his new posting.
In a speech, Liu Geping urged the PLA to follow “Xi Jinping's thoughts of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era as the guide, study and implement Xi Jinping's strong military thought in depth, use military training to prepare officers and soldiers, use scientific methods to guide officers and soldiers, use laws and regulations to standardize officers and soldiers, and constantly harmonize and harmonize the interior relationship.”
He knows his lesson well.

Maj Gen Qu Xinyong in Qinghai
Maj Gen Qu Xinyong
Maj Gen Liu Geping recently replaced Maj Gen Qu Xinyong as the commander of the Sichuan Military District (SMD); the new SMD commander was seen for the first time in his new post on April 21, when the Sichuan Provincial Party Committee and Provincial Government held the Sichuan Science and Technology Award Conference in Chengdu; Qu Xinyong participated as the commander of the Sichuan Military Region.
A Chinese website said: “Qu Xinyong made a special trip to the Deng Xiaoping Bronze Statue Square to present a flower basket and to bow. He also visited the exhibition hall of Deng Xiaoping's former residence, admiring the former residence of Comrade Deng Xiaoping, and remembering the immortal merits of Comrade Deng Xiaoping for China's revolution, construction, and reform.”

Maj Gen Qu Xinyong
Qu Xinyong Biodata
He was born in May 1961 in Yantai, Shandong.
He joined the Army in 1978 and the Communist Party in September 1981; later served in the 31st Division of the 11th Army and the 31st Division of the 14th Army.
In 2002, he was the head of the 93rd Regiment of the 31st Division of the 14th Army.
Later, he became the Chief of Staff of the same Division.
During the period March-August 2006, he attended the Advanced Training Course for Military Command of the the Russian Federation Armed Services Synthesis Academy in Russia.
In 2010, Qu Xinyong returned to the 31st Division of the 14th Army as the division commander.
In 2013, he was transferred to the Chief of Staff of the Yunnan Provincial Military Region and the deputy commander of the military region the following year.
In March 2017, Qu Xinyong was promoted commander of the Qinghai Provincial Military District (QMD) and de facto included in the Standing Committee of the Qinghai Provincial Party Committee. He then replaced Maj Gen Jiang Yongshen.
Now he has been replaced by Maj Gen Liu Geping.

Lt Gen Liu Wanglong
Lt Gen Liu Wanlong
Liu Wanglong was born in July 1962 in Dongchangfu District, Liaocheng City, Shandong Province.
In February 2008, Liu Wanlong was appointed as the commander of the Ngari (Ali) MD of the XMD, facing Northern India.
In 2011, he was transferred and appointed deputy commander of the South Xinjiang Military district (SXMD).
In 2013, he was posted as the Minister of the Military Department of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
Note that Maj Gen Liu Geping, cited above, had a similar career trajectory, though the latter is a few years junior.
On March 17, 2014, Liu was transferred to the Gansu MD; the ‘adjustment’ order of the leadership of the Gansu MD was announced during a meeting.
It was the time when the heads started rolling in the PLA; ultimately between one and two hundreds major generals and above would be ‘investigated’ and would loose their job.
‘Adjustment’ became a routine in the senior ranks of the PLA.
In June 2016, the political commissar of the Lanzhou MD, Maj Gen Li Changcai said that the CMC had appointed Liu Wanlong as the commander of the Gansu MD, in place of Chen Zhishu; Liu Wanlong would also served as a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Gansu Provincial Committee.
In January 2017, he was transferred to the Xinjiang MD as its commander.
In Urumqi (XMD), he replaced Lt Gen Peng Yong who has been several times mentioned on this blog.

Gen Liu patrolling the border
In December 2012 Liu had been promoted to the rank of major general and in July 2018, to the rank of lieutenant general.
According to a press release of the Embassy of India in Beijing, during the official visit to China, of Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Army Commander, Northern Command (between January 7 and 10, 2020), the Indian delegation had meetings at Beijing, Chengdu and Urumqi.
On 8 January 2020, Gen Ranbir visited Chengdu and met General Zhao Zongqi, commander of the WTC (see above). The next day, the delegation flew to Urumqi and met Lt Gen Liu Wanlong.
Since then Gen Liu has not been seen in public.
He did not attend the recently-held National People’s Congress in Beijing while his counterpart for the TMD, Lt Gen Wang Haijiang was attendance; so was Gen Zhao Zongqi; Gen Liu Wanglong was not even listed as one of the 269-PLA delegates.
Was he indisposed or busy preparing the operations in Ladakh?
Lt Gen Liu Wanglong is still listed as a member of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

('District' is sometimes translated as 'Region')

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