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China announced leadership changes in People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force

In a significant departure from Beijing's custom, the two commanders chosen to take over the command did not rise through the ranks of the Rocket Force.

Beijing, 2 Aug, 2023 (GNP): In a surprising military shake-up, China has revealed new leaders for its People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. State media announced the appointment of Wang Houbin as the commander of the Rocket Force and Xu Xisheng as the political commissar, both promoted to the rank of general by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The recent replacements have raised questions about the inner workings at the top of the military branch responsible for overseeing China’s formidable arsenal of nuclear and ballistic missiles. The sudden shift involved the replacement of two top figures in the Rocket Force, with military leaders from outside the branch. Wang Houbin comes from the navy, and Xu Xisheng hails from the air force, making this an unusual move, according to experts.

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This leadership change comes amid speculation and rumors about the possible reshuffling within the Rocket Force. The previous chief, Li Yuchao, who served as the commander for a relatively short tenure since last year, has been replaced without any official information about his current position within the country’s political system. The same is true for the former political commissar, Xu Zhongbo.

While the reasons for the changes remain unclear, experts suggest that it could indicate potential concerns about the force’s leadership from Xi Jinping. The Rocket Force’s role has gained heightened importance in handling China’s missile programs, including nuclear-tipped weapons and shorter-range missiles used in recent intimidation of Taiwan.

Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center think tank, expressed that the shake-up is significant, especially when China is seeking to strengthen its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to potential US intervention in Taiwan. The personnel reshuffle and its underlying causes could raise doubts about the force’s ability to carry out its mission reliably and successfully.

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Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has seen an extensive expansion of the military, with tight control over its ranks. The military has undergone an extensive anti-corruption crackdown, targeting current and former top leaders, including within the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party.

As China commemorates the 96th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the official military newspaper called for military personnel to be loyal to and support Xi Jinping as the “core” of the Communist Party.

The changes in military leadership are part of Xi’s efforts to ensure absolute loyalty among those in powerful positions within the PLA. The shake-up in the Rocket Force is seen as a part of this broader initiative.