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Promoting “young guards”: The recent high turnover in the PLA leadership (Part II: Expansion and escalation)

The most noticeable trend under the leadership of Xi Jinping since the 2012 National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been the continuing consolidation of power. In particular, the military has been a key forum in which Xi has strengthened both his personal power and his new administration’s authority. Xi has adopted several approaches and political tactics to achieve this, including purging the two highest-ranking generals under the previous administration for corruption and other charges; arresting 52 senior military officers on various charges of wrongdoing; reshuffling generals between regions, departments, and services; attempting to systematically reform the PLA’s structure and operations; and, last but not least, rapidly promoting “young guards” (少壮派) in the Chinese military.

These bold moves will have profound implications, not only for Xi’s political standing in the lead-up to the next leadership turnover in 2017, but also for the development of civilian-military relations in the country and for the trajectory of China’s military modernization. The second installment in this series focuses on the reform of the military, including a detailed discussion of the background and chronology of the military reform plan. Although this reform is only in the initial stage of a multiyear plan, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has already undergone its greatest transformation—in terms of administrative lineup, operational theaters, and strategic priorities—since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.

This is part two of a series that will appear in the upcoming issue of the China Leadership Monitor. Download the article in full below. The first paper in the series can be found here: Promoting “young guards”: The recent high turnover in the PLA leadership (Part 1: Purges and reshuffles)

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