Chinese President Xi Jinping has appointed a new General as the Commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theatre Command which oversees the China-India border, amidst the military standoff in eastern Ladakh. President Xi, who heads the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high-command of the two million-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA), appointed Gen. Zhang Xudong as the Commander of the Western Theatre Command, according to the official media here.
Xi has promoted four senior Chinese military and armed police officers. Among them was Gen. Zhang, Commander of the Western Theatre Command of the PLA, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Friday. The other officers who were promoted include Guo Puxiao, Political Commissar of the Logistic Support Department of the CMC; Li Wei, Political Commissar of the PLA Strategic Support Force and Wang Chunning, Commander.
The new appointments at the top of the PLA Western Command comes in the midst of the standoff between the Chinese and Indian military in eastern Ladakh since May. Not much is known about Gen. Zhang, especially his association with Western Theatre Command, as he reportedly served mostly in other theatre commands of the PLA.
He succeeds 65-year-old Gen. Zhao Zongqi who headed the Western Theatre Command during the 2017 Doklam standoff where the Indian Army stood up against the PLA’s plan of laying a road close to the Indian border in an area claimed by Bhutan. The Ladakh standoff also happened under the watch of Gen Zhao. It began in May after China dispatched thousands of troops which were mobilised for military exercises to eastern Ladakh borders, sparking a new round of tensions with India.
India and China have held several rounds of talks at the diplomatic and military-level to resolve the prolonged standoff. At the latest round of foreign ministry-level talks on December 18, the two sides said that they have agreed to continue work towards ensuring complete disengagement of troops in all friction points along the LAC. The meeting also decided to hold the next round of military dialogue at an early date.