The reins of China’s Western Theatre Command, the largest of the five Theatre Commands which manages the border with India and the sensitive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, has been handed over to General Zhang Xudong following the retirement of his predecessor General Zhao Zongqi.
Gen Zhang was among the four officers recently promoted to the rank of General by President Xi Jinping. His appointment in the top post assumes significance due to the ongoing standoff at the Line of Actual Control, amid speculations about prospects over a breakthrough in de-escalation talks.
In an article for The Indian Express, Maj Gen (retd) Prof G G Dwivedi, a 1971 war veteran, analyses the profile of the new chief at the Indo-China border, who, he says, has no prior experience of serving at the Western Theatre, unlike Gen Zhao, who had mostly served in Tibet.
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Gen Zhang, 58, isn’t a member of 19th Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC) though it’s customary for all senior military officials to be a member of the party. He had earlier served as deputy commander of the Central Theatre Command, which takes care of the security of Beijing, and that of the grand parade in 2019 held to mark the 70th anniversary of foundation of People’s Republic of China.
Gen Zhao, who’s believed to be the brain behind the Dokalam standoff in 2017, was set to retire earlier this year, but was given an extension so that his replacement could be brought after due deliberations. Now, as no major operations expected in the winter, Gen Zhang will get enough time to settle down in his new post, according to the writer.
Since the nation’s Central Military Commission (CMC) directly oversees the People’s Liberation Army’s operations in Ladakh, nothing much is expected to change in the on-ground situation and also as other key officers of the command remain the same.
The theatre commanders report directly to the CMC and it is expected that General Zhang has been assigned a clear mission and targets that he must achieve over the next few years, and prove himself.