Promoting “young guards”: The recent high turnover in the PLA leadership (Part 1: Purges and reshuffles)

The continuing consolidation of power has been the most noticeable trend under the leadership of President Xi Jinping since the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in November 2012. Undoubtedly, a key component in this strengthening of both Xi’s personal power and his new administration’s authority has centered on the military domain. Xi has gone about the consolidation process through several important political and tactical moves, including the purges of the two highest-ranking generals under the previous administration on corruption and other charges; the arrest of over 40 senior military officers on various charges of
wrongdoing; large-scale reshuffling of generals between regions, departments, and services; ongoing efforts to reform the People’s Liberation Army structure and operations; and, most importantly, the rapid promotion of “young guards” (少壮派) in the Chinese military.

All of these bold measures will have profound implications—not only for Xi’s political standing in preparation for the next leadership turnover in 2017, but also for the trajectory of civilian-military relations in the country and for the assessment of China’s military modernization. The first installation in this series focuses on the recent purges and reshuffling of military leaders, which has significant consequences in the political dynamics of present-day China.

This is part one of a series that will appear in the upcoming issue of the China Leadership Monitor. Download the article in full below.