Xi Poised To Build Support For “Taiwan Reunification” With 4 Top Military Picks

If you thought the global economic chaos resulting from one hot war was more than enough, well… we have some bad news: a second one is on its way as the specter of a China-Taiwan war grows by the day.

According to Japan’s Nikkei, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to stack the country’s senior military leadership during next month’s Communist Party congress with loyalists aligned on his goal of unifying Taiwan and the mainland.

Xi – who is expected to accept an unprecedented third term at next month’s twice-a-decade Party Congress – serves concurrently as general secretary of the Communist Party and chair of the Central Military Commission, the top decision-making body for the armed forces. Four of the commission’s seven members are due to retire at the twice-a-decade congress in mid-October.

According to Nikkei, much attention is focused on how Xi, who is all but guaranteed to receive a precedent-breaking third term as China’s top leader at the event, will fill the vacancies on the military commission given his belligerent stance toward the U.S. and Taiwan.

Miao Hua, one of the commission’s members, is seen as the top candidate to replace Xu Qiliang, one of the two vice chairman. Miao has known Xi for three decades, since the latter served in Fujian Province.

Xi in 2015 began restructuring China’s ground-forces-centric military into a modern and mobile organization in which all branches fight as one. In an effort to break through the silos among the armed branches, Miao, an army man, had been appointed to a senior post within the navy.

A contender for promotion onto the commission is Li Qiaoming, former head of the People’s Liberation Army’s Northern Theater Command. Li apparently caught Xi’s eye by writing an article that struck a chord with the leader, who sought to tighten the party’s grip on the armed forces. Though the PLA serves as China’s military, it is part of the Communist Party.

“The Soviet Union collapsed because the party didn’t have its own army,” Li had argued in the article.

Longtime Xi protege Liu Zhenli commands the PLA ground forces. Liu’s resume includes a lengthy stint overseeing a unit that safeguarded Beijing, a contingent formed by the best-trained fighters in the army. He ranks among the top 200 Communist Party officials, as does Li. That puts Liu in the running for a vice chairman post on the military commission.

Among other things, Xi is expected to reiterate his vision for Taiwanese unification during the congress. But since many officials in the military are currently reluctant to achieve that goal through force, promoting Miao, Li and Liu could smooth the way for the president to make such decisions regarding Taiwan.

Speculation also suggests that Xi will promote Zhang Shengmin, a Central Military Commission member who led anti-corruption dragnets in the PLA, to vice chairman. This would put other senior military officers on notice.

Military leaders with experience in the region including Taiwan have drawn attention as potential commission members. He Weidong commands the PLA’s Eastern Theater, which oversees operations involving Taiwan and Japan’s Nansei archipelago. He is believed to have taken part in the large-scale military exercise near Taiwan in early August.

Another likely candidate is Xu Qiling, who once commanded PLA ground forces in the Eastern Theater. Chang Dingqiu, commander of the air force and the youngest active full general, is seen to be in contention as well.

Newly elected vice chairman of the Central Military Commission Xu Qiliang, bottom, and other commission members take an oath to the constitution at the sixth plenary session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 18, 2018

In the last party congress in 2017, Xi reduced the seats on the Central Military Commission to seven from 11. In 2022, many of these seats will now be filled with Xi’s preferred puppets, greenlighting any military overtures the Chinese ruler orders.

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