Who’s Zhang Xudong, China’s new Western Theatre commander? 

4 officers of the Chinese language Individuals’s Liberation Military, together with two political commissars and one from the Individuals’s Armed Police, have been promoted to the rank of Common at a ceremony held on the PLA’s Bayi headquarters constructing in Beijing on December 18.

Amongst them was Common Zhang Xudong, who has been appointed the new commander of the PLA’s Western Theatre Command (WTC), changing Common Zhao Zongqi. WTC is the biggest of the PLA’s 5 Theatre Instructions, and for India, the location of the continuing standoff.

With the Chinese language intruding into Ladakh in Could 2020, the continuing confrontation stretches from Daulat Beg Oldi and Qizil Jilga to Chushul, Demchok and Chumar, passing by way of the Pangong Tso. The PLA has now formally laid declare to virtually the entire of Ladakh.

Xudong’s army report

The motive behind the promotions, touted by the Chinese language Communist Occasion (CCP) as routine, is veiled in secrecy. World media is aware of little about Xudong, and a change of guard at WTC would possibly point out a stronger push to Chinese language premier Xi Jinping’s agenda of controlling the occupied areas of Japanese Ladakh, Tibet and East Turkestan, now often called Xinjiang.

The newly appointed Western Theatre commander’s tasks embrace defending China’s 4,057 km-long disputed land frontier with India. The Chinese language have through the years been claiming tracts of Indian territories alongside the border, with Ladakh being the scene of intense fighting in 1962 and friction thereafter.

Genera Zhang Xudong. (Credit score: Chinese language Web, sourced by Col Vinayak Bhat [Retd])

The importance of the promotions could possibly be gauged from the truth that Jinping himself attended the occasion held within the Chinese language defence ministry’s well-known Bayi constructing, positioned close to Bayi lake in Beijing.

The Chinese language defence ministry’s Bayi constructing in Beijing. (Credit score: Xinhua Information Company)

Listed here are some photos of Bayi constructing as seen from area.

However whereas Xudong has no expertise of Tibet or Xinjiang (beneath WTC), he has served a few years within the erstwhile delicate Shenyang MR, accountable for the borders with North Korea and Russia.

Whereas serving within the Shenyang MR, Xudong served in prestigious army formations, commanded a division and was later Chief of Workers earlier than being promoted as Commander of the thirty ninth Group Military.

From March 2017 to January 2018, he served as commander of the PLA Military (Floor Forces) of the Central Theatre Command, which is accountable for the safety of China’s capital Beijing. In February 2018, he was appointed deputy commander of the Central Theatre Command.

Xudong was additionally the deputy commander of the Joint Command Headquarters
of the seventieth anniversary Nationwide Day Parade in October 2019. His appointment as WTC commander was first introduced publicly on the promotion ceremony this December.

Xudong’s political reliability is clearly extremely rated. Whereas commanding 115 Division, he was deputy secretary of the Occasion Committee of the thirty ninth Group Military Infantry and later a member of the Standing Committee of the Occasion Committee of fortieth and thirty ninth Group Armies.

Following his appointments as Central Navy Fee (CMC) chairman, Chinese language Communist Occasion basic secretary and President of China, Xi Jinping had introduced on the very first enlarged assembly of CMC that political reliability would be the single most vital standards for promotion.

Xudong earned his promotions throughout Xi’s tenure as vice-chairman and subsequently chairman of the CMC. He was promoted to the rank of Main Common in July 2012, and in July 2018, to the rank of Lieutenant Common.

India ought to count on no easing of rigidity consequent to Xudong’s appointment as WTC commander since such choices stream from the CMC. Within the case of India, which is a strong neighbour, it’s Xi who’s orchestrating the developments. However whereas Xudong may definitely submit suggestions to the CMC, he could have restricted scope for figuring out its actions.

Why WTC is vital for China

WTC, which merged the erstwhile Lanzhou and Chengdu Navy Areas (MRs), contains greater than half of China’s land space, 22 per cent of its inhabitants and over a 3rd of China’s land-based army.

Institution of the brand new WTC strengthened China’s army drive deployment reverse India. China’s thought of merging Lanzhou and Chengdu MRs was to enhance joint planning, coordination and operations.

Incorporation of the Qinghai plateau area in WTC will facilitate speedy induction and deployment of excessive altitude-acclimatised and -trained troops into Tibet and throughout Chinese language-occupied Ladakh.

The opposite three promotees other than Xudong have been Common Guo Puxiao, political commissar of CMC’s logistics assist division; Common Li Wei, political commissar of the Strategic Help Pressure; and Common Wang Chun Ning, commander of the Armed Police Pressure.

However it’s Xudong who will probably be intently watched by India, for he’s now accountable for implementing the rest of Xi’s army plans in Ladakh and different disputed areas.

(The creator is former Further Secretary, Cupboard Secretariat, Authorities of India, and presently President of the Centre for China Evaluation and Technique)

– Inputs by Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) in New Delhi. Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) is a advisor for India In the present day. A satellite tv for pc imagery analyst, he served within the Indian Military for over 33 years.

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