Recently, China reshuffled its top military guard of the eastern theatre and promoted General He Weidong, a former head of the Eastern Theatre Command, to become the new second-ranked vice-chairman of the Chinese Military Commission.
Meanwhile, another ageing general and military strategist, General Zhang Youxia returns as the first-ranked vice-chairman of the commission.
Appointing new heads within China’s military has long been considered one of the more opaque dimensions of Chinese politics. That is the reason that the selection of new military leaders is big news as it reveals Xi’s priorities and leadership over the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) over the next five years, according to The Hong Kong Post.
According to media reports, Admiral Miao Hua, 66, who was political director of the 31st Group Army in 1999, is another member of the CMC with a strong Taiwan-related background. Miao, who heads the CMC’s political work, “served as political commissar of the PLA Navy from December 2014 to September 2017, and was the political commissioner of the Lanzhou military region in 2014”.
Taiwan remains the first priority of the army. The installation of the two experienced generals indicates the President’s wish to spell out credible military options for the PLA in a Taiwan contingency, according to the Hong Kong Post.
The media analyst said that both have a “wealth of command experience in China’s eastern military districts”, according to media analysts.
According to the Hong Kong Post, General He Weidong spent his formative years in the 31st Group Army based in Fujian before shifting to Jiangsu province as its military commander. It is part of the Nanjing military region that oversees the country’s eastern theatre. He was made a lieutenant general in 2017, promoted to full general two years later, and made commander of the Eastern Theatre Command.
The command “has an area of responsibility that covers Taiwan and the East China Sea”. Before becoming the CMC’s vice-chairman, he had joined the Central Military Commission’s (CMC)Joint Command Centre – the Chinese armed forces’ top command and control organ.
Meanwhile, General Zhang Youxia’s promotion came as a surprise as it was “against unwritten party norms that previously required Central Committee members to retire before they turned 68”.
According to the Hong Kong Post, Admiral Miao Hua, 66, who was political director of the 31st Group Army in 1999, is another member of the CMC with a strong Taiwan-related background.
The Hong Kong Post reported citing CNN that the reshuffle in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and recruiting of a number of officers as “action men” for their expertise in the areas that would be key to any invasion. And that’s fueled concerns that such a move could be imminent.”
According to western analysts, the rejig in the military for the past year has kept growing in Chinese rhetoric against Taiwan. Beijing has sent dozens of aircraft and ships near Taiwan and even fired a missile over the island.
Taiwan continues to counter rhetoric. President Tsai Ing-Wen says she is willing to cooperate with China for “mutually acceptable ways” to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait but asserts that there is “no room for compromise over the self-ruled island’s sovereignty”, reported The Hong Kong Post.
The West feels the rhetoric from both sides and Beijing’s recent manoeuvres have stoked fears that an attempted Chinese military takeover of Taiwan could be next on the horizon.