John L. Thornton China Center

Chang Wanquan 常万全

One of China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

  • Born 1949
  • Member of the Central Military Commission (2007-date)
  • Director of the PLA General Armaments Department (2007-date)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2002-date)
  • Manned Space Project commander-in-chief (2008-date)


Personal and Professional Background

Chang Wanquan was born in 1949 in Nanyang City, Henan Province. He joined the CCP in 1968 and joined the PLA in the same year. He received an undergraduate education from a correspondence program at the Weinan Teachers School in Weinan City, Shaanxi Province (1985-87). He also attended a program in the Basic Operation Department of the National Defense University in Beijing (1994-95). He began his military career as a soldier and as a squad leader (1968-69). He advanced his career by serving as a staff officer of the Operation Department of the No. 140 Division (1970-74), a staff officer of the Operation Department of the No. 47 Army (1974-78), and as a staff officer of the Second Section of the Operation Department of the Lanzhou Military Region (MR), where he also served as a personal secretary (mishu) to General Han Xianchu, who was then commander of the Lanzhou MR (1978-80). Chang served as deputy director (1980-81) and director (1981-83) of the Operation Department of the 47th Group Army. He served as chief-of-staff (1983-85) and deputy commander (1985-90) of the No. 140 Division of the 47th Group Army. He served as director of the Operation Department of the Lanzhou MR (1990-92) and commander of the 61st Division (1992-94), and chief-of-staff of the 47th Group Army (1994-98). He served as director of the Operation Research and Teaching Section of the National University of Defense (1998-2000), commander of the No 47 Group Army (2000-02), chief-of-staff of the Lanzhou MR (2002-03) and of the Beijing MR (2003-04), and commander of the Shenyang MR (2004-07). A full member of the CCP Central Committee since 2002, he has served as director of the PLA General Armaments Department and as a member of the CCP Central Military Commission. Since 2008, he has also served as a member of the PRC Central Military Commission, commander-in-chief of the Manned Space Project, and Shenzhou No. 7 Task Commander-in-Chief. Chang received the rank of major general in 1997 and the rank of lieutenant general in 2003; since 2007 he has served at the rank of general.


Family and Patron-Client Ties

Chang was born into a humble family of farmers with five siblings in Maiyadian Village, Shiqiao Town in Wolong District in Henan’s Nanyang City. Chang served as a personal secretary (mishu) of Han Xianchu, a former PLA General who later became a vice chairman of the NPC. Chang is often regarded as a protégé of CMC Vice Chairman Guo Boxiong, who previously served in the 47th Group Army and the Lanzhou MR, where Chang advanced his military career. According to most Chinese sources, Chang has been very close to Hu Jintao.


Political Prospects and Policy Preferences

Chang has solid and broad leadership experience in the PLA and is a leading candidate to receive both a seat in the Politburo representing the military and a vice chairmanship of the CMC at the 18th Party Congress. Chang is also a top candidate for the post of minister of defense. His humble family background has also made him more competitive at this highest level of military leadership, which is known for its predominance of generals with a princeling background. Partly due to his leadership background in military technology, including the manned space program, Chang has been a strong advocate of rapid modernization in PLA military equipment and of the integration of a combined operations supreme command, with an emphasis on better operational coordination among the army, navy, land forces, and missile forces in warfare.[1]


Notes

[1] Chang Wanquan 常万全,“The promotion of high-technology and new military equipment to achieve a frog-leap, self-sufficient, and sustainable development”(推动高新武器装备自主跨越可持续发展). China News Net, August 4, 2012, http://www.chinanews.com/mil/2012/08-04/4082573.shtml.


Editor's Note: The profile above was prepared by the China Center's Cheng Li and originally appeared in the China Leadership Monitor.