Xi Jinping’s First Time: Promoting a General, Resisting Western Hopes, and (maybe) Heeding Hu’s Advice

What led me to the following speculation – and translation – is a post on a Sincere Soldier‘s (至诚大兵) People’s Daily blog, on the promotion of Wei Fenghe (魏凤和), by Xi Jinping, the CCP’s Central Military Commission. It was published on November 24 (Saturday).

I’m not quite sure what makes Wei Fenghe‘s promotion so unusual (if there is anything that does), but People’s Daily appeared to see a need to explain Wei’s  promotion from middle general (中将军) to senior general (上将军), not least in the light of other former middle generals who had had to wait longer for their promotion than Wei. To provide such explanation seems to be the job of Sincere Soldier, the “blogger” on the People’s Daily platform.

Some comment from other media (before we are getting back to Sincere Soldier):

Promoting senior military officers is one of the two most effective ways for a civilian party leader to consolidate his control over the world’s biggest fighting force. The other is increasing military spending to improve soldiers’ welfare,

the South China Morning Post (SCMP) explained, also last Saturday.

“The coming of Xi’s era is far earlier than expected by most of the outside world,” Lin said. “The authorisation of Wei’s promotion signifies the kicking off of his time in charge of the military, although the process is going as expected”, the SCMP quoted Taiwan’s former deputy defense minister Lin Chong-pin, within the same article on Saturday.

Another issue that Sincere Soldier addresses can be found in New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV’s) comment on Lei Fenghe’s promotion:

According to the constitution, the chairman of the Central Military Commission is the head of the National Central Military Commission and also the head of the national military. Xi Jinping has been recently promoted as the Chairman of the CCP’s Central Military Commission. However, Hu Jintao is still Chairman of the national Central Military Commission. Commentator Xia Xiaoqiang: “Hu Jintao hopes that Xi Jinping improves authority in the military by promoting an army general. This will help maintain the stability of the CCP regime in a whole. […] The CCP doesn’t care about whether or not it abides by the Constitution. In front of the law, the Party has the final say.”

“Sincere Soldier”, the People’s Daily blogger, seems to see an issue there, although – obviously – in a different light. Read for yourselves.

Links within the following blockquotes added during translation – JR.

Main Link: Sincere Soldier’s blogpost

According to China Military Online, the Central Military Commission (CMC) held a solemn ceremony for the promotion to a senior general’s rank at the 8-1 building in Beijing today. CMC chairman Xi Jinping promoted CMC member and Second Artillery Corps member Wei Fenghe to the rank of a senior general.


This is the first time that Xi Jinping signed a promotion to a senior general’s rank after becoming CMC chairman, which led to particular interest among observers. What does this first signature reveal about the construction of our military? Please read my straightforward analysis as a sincere serviceman.


(1) It shows that the People’s Liberation Army resolutely obeys Chairman Xi’s command. That Xi Jinping signs the first promotion to the rank of a senior general is intended to demonstrate, to insiders and outsiders, the People’s Liberation Army resolve to obey CMC chairman Xi’s commands. To listen to the party’s commands is the core and the spirit of the People’s Liberation Army’s good tradition. After Xi Jinping took the CMC chairmanship, the People’s Liberation Army, above all, needed to uphold the party’s absolute leadership of the armed forces, the forces’ political political qualification, its absolute loyalty and reliability, to resist [by this ceremony] the West’s hopes for a “nationalization of the military forces“.


Hu Jintao, not so Mursi – for copyright reasions, I’m not including a  photo here, but it can be found there.

(2) It shows once more the nobility and sterling integrity of Hu Jintao’s withdrawal. Hu Jintao considered the overall development and on his own initiative relinquished his service as CMC chairman. The way Hu Jintao, on the extended meeting of the CMC, introduced Xi Jinping as a man who was qualified to chair the CMC reflected the high degree to which the handover was made on a foundation of trust. However, Hu Jintao remains in charge of the People’s Republic of China’s Central Military Commission*), and to step down from this service will require confirmation from next year’s National People’s Congress (NPC). The way in which the new CMC chairman Xi Jinping signed and announced the promotion by writ once again reflected Hu Jintao’s nobility and sterling integrity and his great trust in Xi Jinping, the profoundness of his mind, which avoided the possibility of a “crash” from the promotion.


(3) The solemnity of the occasion showed a great emphasis on the Second Artillery Corps’ importance. […]


(4) It shows that Chairman Xi Jinping grasps the construction of the armed forces in accordance with the army regulations. […]


Wei Fenghe’s promotion to senior general’s rank will be conducive to our military troops’ organizational command and to related activities. An army officer’s promotion to senior general’s rank is a very solemn and serious event. If we go by Ma Xiaotian and Liu Yuan as examples, they both held ranks as middle generals for nine years. [ Unsafe translation: Based on the records of service, there are above-board military-region middle generals with longer terms as middle generals than Wei Fenghe to be chosen. However, Chairman Xi Jinping signed the order and announced Wei Fenghe’s promotion in the same place also lets Wei exercise complementary tasks as CMC member and the command of the Second Artillery Corps.] Wei Fenghe’s promotion will be conducive to the Second Artillery Corps’ organizational command and to related activities. Wei Fenghe’s duties and positions, besides commanding the Second Artillery Corps, will – depending on the situation – require the command of the Corps, corresponding public activities and foreign activities, and Wei Fenghe’s promotion is conducive to the troops’ organizational command and to the related activities.


The “People’s Liberation Army” would be under the CCP’s command either way, but the Communist Party’s immediate command (shortcutting state supervision and command) doesn’t go without saying. The above People’s Daily blogpost, by suggesting that PLA nationalization would only fulfill “Western” hopes, blanketly counts Chinese proponents of such nationalization into a “Western” camp.



*) Uaually, both the party’s and the state CMC’s are identical in membership.


13 Responses to “Xi Jinping’s First Time: Promoting a General, Resisting Western Hopes, and (maybe) Heeding Hu’s Advice”

  1. Being no expert, I would draw the very opposite conclusion: “It shows that the People’s Liberation Army resolutely obeys Chairman Xi’s command”.

    An extremely opaque, faction-ridden institution if we are to believe Garnaut.

    And I for one don’t place much credence in all this choreographed China Daily publicity about the first fighter jet landing on the Liaoning. I have linked a ton of technical evidence on various sites about the inadequacies of PLA-N first aircraft carrier (former floating casino).

    Potemkin Village at sea stuff, nicely timed to coincide with Xi’s ascendancy (with a whole host of party elders looking over his shoulder ) and a narrative intended to displace all the recent, financial sleaze and honey trap sex. The Ministry of Tofu captures the Sino social media perfectly: How to create an indigenous PSY Top Gun feelgood talking point.

    Also a good argument that social media alone is capable of affecting significant political change in China. That will only take place when the economy and banking system goes pear shaped.

    A serious and responsible KT (for the time being at least, until I get another rush of blood to the head).


  2. Even if the PLA navy gets six of the old bangers, they will still be Potemkin village stuff. The threat to neighbors by existing navy and medium-range missiles is a bigger worry. Not to mention Chinese submarines and the building of Hainan into a nuclear submarine basis. Nice anyway that the media are leaping at the aircraft carrier story.

    If Xi Jinping is interested, there’s still a nice little something on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. We can take it through the Kiel Canal, and within years, there’s another platform for Soviet copies to land on. Then deeply Sino-German friendship and love you long time.


  3. Then deeply Sino-German friendship and love you long time.

    Sheesh, maybe I shouldn’t have titled this post Xi’s first time.

    KT, I agree about the nature (and politically-inflated description) of “social media”. There’s a lot of talk that portrays them as the snake, and the CCP as the poor little rabit facing it. I think it was Han-han (or a ghost writer, or somebody completely else) who once mused that if the party switched the internet off for a few days, as a reaction to unhealthy messages, most “netizens” would go after those who caused the nuisance – i. e. after those counter-revolutionary buggers.


  4. “Also a good argument that social media alone is incapable of affecting significant political change in China”.
    Incapable….not at the top of the class this morning….digging out trees.

    Social media is just a minor terrain for the vox pop-Party conversation, and I see the Party getting a temporary boost at present with this aircraft business. That is until the off-takes of the many aborted landings and take-offs hit the tubes.

    This is also a public relations exercise directed at the neighbors and the West, and judging by the tons of uncritical reporting by non-Chinese media, it is having the desired effect.

    One thing is certain. The Liaoning will be keep well out of harms way in any conflict situation.

    Picking up on what taide wrote about Hainan and existing navy plus missiles. Its all very very having such military items. It is quite another thing to mobilize them in a coordinated and really effective manner. That calls for incredibly efficient logistical support, clear and effective chain of command, plus a fair dose of practical skills at the pointy end of the whole business. (Contrast US forces>) Looks good on paper, but I won’t be betting the farm on the Chinaside now or in the long term future.


  5. If China Daily and the Global Times are sources, why not NTDTV? I looked for something that could help to explain why People’s Daily should emphasize the most natural thing: Hu Jintao’s nobility and the deep trust between him and his successor. It should – normally – go without saying.

    As for the background of NTDTV: I’m taking it for granted that the (few) readers here are aware of NTDTV’s background. Depending on where I’m blogging, I might add more information. In this German blogpost, I noted that NTDTV is close to Falun Gong. But I believe that to read propaganda from different brotherhoods, rather than just from one, is no bad idea.

    Btw, you are welcome to comment on my post there. I could use some comments in whatever language (Chinese, too.) The content (Xi Jinping’s first time) is basically the same there, only shorter.


  6. “I won’t be betting the farm on the Chinaside now or in the long term future.”

    Analysts at Germany’s Wehrmacht drew similar conclusions from the embarrassing showing of the Soviet army in the Finnish-Soviet winter war. Their own initial successes when invading the Soviet Union seemed to prove them right.

    But after the great setbacks of summer 1941, Stalin was flexible enough to return the command to those military leaders who had survived the purge in the 1930s.

    The threat for free navigation and for China’s neighbours (not only Taiwan) is there, regardless of the tools Peking chooses – cutlass or floret.


  7. Taide. Thanks for the Russo-Finnish history lesson. Read John Erickson and a whole host of other military historians on the same subject.

    This China stuff is not about chain of command, it’s about effective, unambiguous chain of command.

    Also we are talking about air – sea power, a whole new configuration and unchartered territory for China.

    This is not to disrespect Generals Koniev, Rokossovski, Zhukov and Chuikov: unquestionably the practitioners of land -based warfare par excellence in the 20th century…fullstop …. and not withstanding US wishful thinking on the same matter.


  8. Tai De, if you believe that the Chinese navy can turn the Graf Zeppelin (that nice little something from the bottom of the Baltic Sea) into a working aircraft carrier, suitable for the landing of Soviet copies, you must rate them very highly indeed. A big step from refurbishing the old Varyag.

    If the Chinese can keep their units sort of syncrhonized, KT? I can’t tell. But I suppose they could stirr quite some real trouble, if they absolutely wanted to. Even if their warfare should be complete chaos.


  9. I certainly agree with King Tubby, on air-sea power. But the aircraft carrier works psychologically, and quite efficiently. That aircraft carrier programme is no attempt to win neighbours over, but to intimidate them, or to dominate them (making friend is not the CPC’s strength, it seems). As for China’s military power inasfar as it is already there, I think China could defeat any neighbor (on the seas, anyway), which resist its expansion efforts. The only power in China’s way is the U.S., and those who feel pressured by China are shifting towards the Americans.


  10. Taide. Yes, I agree. Intimidate and dominate.
    Basically, the PLAN should be called out on this issue.
    This is strictly poker.



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