Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday promoted four senior military officers including the commander of People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) western theatre command (WTC) ground forces to the rank of general.
The WTC oversees the disputed Sino-India border, and is China’s largest theatre command. Commander of the PLA’s WTC Xu Qiling, 59, was among the four to have been promoted as general, Xinhua news agency reported.
He reports to Gen Zhang Xudong, the overall head of the WTC.
“Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), has promoted four senior military officers to the rank of general, the highest rank for officers in active service in China,” the Xinhua report said.
Xi presented certificates of the orders he signed to them at a ceremony held by the CMC in Beijing on Monday.
Besides Xu, the other officers promoted were the Commander of PLA’s Southern Theatre Command, Wang Xiubin, Commander of the PLA Army, Liu Zhenli, and the Commander of the PLA Strategic Support Force, Ju Qiansheng.
“Xu Qiliang, CMC vice chairman, announced the orders of promotion at the ceremony, which was presided over by CMC vice chairman Zhang Youxia,” the report said.
The promotion of Xu as general comes in the backdrop of the ongoing military tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
Then a lieutenant general, Xu was appointed as the new commander of PLA’s ground forces in June, 2020, days ahead of the deadly Galwan Valley clash in which both Indian and Chinese soldiers were killed.
The new appointment last year had come at a time when Chinese and Indian forces were already locked in a border standoff for weeks.
Xu, a former ground force commander of the Eastern Theatre Command, swapped posts with his counterpart He Weidong in the WTC, in-charge of the disputed border areas in the Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions.
Xu’s promotion comes ahead of the next round of military talks between India and China to resolve the border tension.
On June 25, the two sides held the 22nd meeting of the China-India Border Consultation and Coordination Mechanism by video link.
Representatives of the two countries’ foreign affairs, defence, immigration and other departments attended.
According to statements issued by both sides, they exchanged candid and in-depth views on border issues and bilateral relations. They agreed to consolidate the results of the disengagement of border troops between the two sides and resolve the remaining issues in the western part of the China-India border in accordance with the consensus reached by the foreign ministers of the two countries.
“The two sides will continue to work to promote further de-escalation of the situation at the border, avoid the recurrence of the situation on the ground, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas,” the Chinese statement said.
The two sides also agreed to continue high-level diplomatic communication, provide further important guidance on the situation at the China-India border, and actively prepare for the 12th round of military-level talks to determine specific time and arrangements through the border hotline as soon as possible.
On Monday, Xi also signed an order to confer an honorary counterterrorism title to a special operations squadron of the armed police force in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.