Powerful PLA general ousted as yet another power struggle rattles CCP

Special to WorldTribune.com

Bill Gertz, Inside the Ring, Washington Times

The ouster of retired People’s Liberation Army Gen. Xu Caihou from the Communist Party of China this week represents a major political blow to China’s all-powerful military.

Xu Caihou, right, with Bo Xilai in Beijing in 2012.  /Simon Song
Xu Caihou, right, with Bo Xilai in Beijing in 2012. /Simon Song

For a decade, Gen. Xu was the most powerful man in uniform in China as the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) in charge of political affairs. From that post between 2002 and 2012 he wielded enormous power, ultimately controlling all things military in China, from the PLA’s multibillion-dollar budgets to appointments and promotions of all senior leaders. Now facing court martial for corruption, Gen. Xu was accused of selling military promotions and access to power.

However, U.S. government analysts say his expulsion and prosecution have less to do with President Xi Jinping’s much-heralded anti-corruption drive than old fashioned political score-settling. Animosity toward Gen. Xu dates to the regime of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his differences with Hu Jintao, who took over as partial supreme leader in 2002.

Gen. Xu, who visited the Pentagon in October 2009, is known to defense officials as a suave political operative who understood the mechanics of getting, holding and using power. His downfall was due to his role as a political henchman for Mr. Jiang, who as Chinese leader continued to control the military as CMC chairman for three years after passing control of other elements of the Chinese power structure to Mr. Hu beginning in 2002. …

The problems do not appear to be over for Mr. Xi in his drive to further consolidate power in the party. Gen. Xu remains a powerful figure in the military because he was able to use his decade of political control over the PLA to position tens of acolytes in top ranks. In fact, both current CMC vice chairmen, Gen. Fan Changlong and Gen. Xu Qiliang, are proteges of the ousted general.


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