Category The Chinese Air Force

The Second Echelon of the PLAAF Headquarters Elites

The second echelon of PLAAF leadership consists of the PLAAF’s dep­uty commanders, chief of staff, deputy chiefs of staff, and assistant chiefs of staff. Readers are advised that these elites at the headquarters belong to two clusters in CMC nomenclature. The deputy commanders and chief of staff are at the deputy MR rank and fall into the CMC “Category B” management list, requiring that (though nominated by the CMC’s professional soldiers) their appointments be approved by the CMC chair personally. The deputy chief of staff and assistant chief of staff are Corps-level leaders whose appointments are basically decided by the PLAAF, approved by the CMC in regular meetings, and signed by the CMC chair. Their appointments are professional, not politi­cal. In fact the PLA is no longer subjected to impositions of blatantly politi­cal appointments, though this was a widespread phenomenon in the now-past eras of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.14 Currently, the PLAAF has five dep­uty commanders, five deputy chiefs of staff, and five assistant chiefs of staff.

Deputy Commanders

All five PLAAF deputy commanders were born in 1949, meaning that they have little or no prospect of upward progression, since the deputy MR rank requires compulsory retirement age at 63. Among them are three fighter pilots of the top grade and two army officers transferred to the PLAAF, with distinctive military family backgrounds.

Lieutenant General He Weirong ) is executive deputy commander,

responsible for operations and training. He commanded Fighter Division 6 and was deputy commander of the Jinan MR and the Jinan AF Region (2003). He was PLAAF chief of staff (2003) before assuming his current position (2005).

Lieutenant General Jing Wenchun (ЯЙ#) is in charge of the depart­ments of supporting arms in the Headquarters (electronic warfare, radar and communications, education institutions, and key weapons projects).15 He was commander of the 10th Corps (1998) and deputy commander of the Beijing MR and the Beijing AF Region (2002-2006) before assuming his current position.

Lieutenant General Zhao Zhongxin (М&ЭД is in charge of headquar­ters affairs and air force MR affairs. He was commander of the 19th Fighter Division and the Dalian base (2000) and chief of staff for the Nanjing (2002) and Chengdu (2004) AF Regions and deputy chief of staff (2004) and chief of staff of the PLAAF (2005) before assuming this position.

Lieutenant General Yang Dongming (ШЖЩ) is in charge of the PLAAF Research Institutions (basic weapons design, research and development), the Engineering Department, and logistics. Although recruited into the PLA as an air force technical officer—he graduated from the Beijing Aero-Space and Avi­ation University in 1977 as a rocket engineer—his career advancement came mostly in the army, with postings to the Defense Technology Commission, the Hebei Military District, and the Beijing Garrison. He was transferred back to the PLAAF as deputy commander from the GLD (where he was director for the Material and Oil Department). Without the connections of his father (General Yang Chengwu [Ш$.Ж], former PLA chief of general staff), he would not have come this far in the air force, for he was not an airman and possessed no prior experience in PLAAF combat units or headquarters.

Lieutenant General Chen Xiaogong (^/JI) is in charge of intelligence, training safety, and foreign affairs. He is probably the only senior commander in the PLAAF with battlefield combat experience, having fought in the Sino-Vietnam border war as a battalion commander. He was PLA defense attache in Washington (2001) and then the PLAs intelligence chief (director of the 2d Department of the GSD). He represented the PLA as deputy director of the Politburo’s Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group (FALSG) office and was appointed assistant chief of general staff in 2007, temporarily filling the vacancy left by General Xiong Guangkai.

Chen’s career progression is intriguing. It is not clear how he was trans­ferred to the PLAAF, which had already filled its four deputy-commander quota. Chen belongs to the PLA category of “cadre to be rescued” (ЙЙ^нР), a com­mander with a distinctive service record who, due to lack of a compulsory experi­ence or lack of a vacancy, is transferred elsewhere as a way of promotion. General Pei Huailiang (Ш’Тй) was a good example of this category when he was pro­moted as president of the NDU. General Zhang Qingsheng was promoted to be deputy chief of general staff without experience as a group army (GA) and MR Commander. For Chen Xiaogong, assistant chief of general staff is still between the army and DMR ranks that he achieved long time ago ()#^KS).16

But without experience as a commanding officer at or above divisional level (¥#iW), it went against the norm to create an exception for him to become deputy chief of general staff. Overall, Chen’s career progression was frustrated despite his extensive connections with top leaders while working in the Politbu­ro’s FALSG and his father’s connection as China’s first ambassador to Japan. He thus went to the PLAAF because the PLAAF was a place that could adopt him.

Lieutenant General Yang Guohai (ЙВЛ) is the PLAAF chief of staff. From his resume, we can see that he has been Xu’s old associate in Shanghai and is the same age as Xu. The relations between a commander and his chief of staff are always special, and this makes the post of chief of staff a key position in the PLA. According to PLA regulations, the chief of staff is in a way more important than deputy commanders. For instance, if the commander is killed in combat, the next person in line to fill the commanding job is not one of the deputy commanders, but the chief of staff because the former are in charge of specific areas while the latter is more familiar with the overall responsibilities and workings of the unit.17 Although deputy commander and chief of staff are at the same military rank, in recent years more chiefs of staff have been pro­moted to lead MRs and Corps-level units than deputy commanders.

Yang was born in 1950, and became commander of the 4th Fighter Divi­sion in his late 30s and commander of the Shanghai base in 1998. He stayed in the post of chief of staff of the Lanzhou AF Region for 6 years from 2000, a bit too long for a designated candidate for a future PLAAF leader and, as a result, his future is relatively limited. But after he was appointed to deputy chief of staff of the Air Force in 2006, he held that post for hardly a year before being promoted to chief of staff. Obviously his deputy period was transitional, wait­ing for the incumbent chief of staff (Zhao Zhongxin) to vacate the position.

Approaches to Technology Development and Procurement

Few things differentiate the lethality of an air force more than the level of technology in its most advanced aircraft. Historically, advantages in avia­tion technology have often translated into significant advantages in combat environments, especially for fighter aircraft. In the current environment, the world’s most advanced air forces have access to fifth-generation fighter air­craft technology.2 Fifth-generation fighters are characterized by the incorpo­ration of advanced technologies such as stealth, integrated avionics systems, thrust vectoring, and helmet-mounted sights.3 The technological demands of designing and producing advanced fighters present considerable challenges for developing countries. They may want an air force that is on par qualitatively with the world’s most advanced, but usually lack an aviation industry capable of producing cutting-edge fighter aircraft technology. A developing country may be able to produce some highly sophisticated components, but lack the knowledge or industrial capacity to design and build all necessary components or to integrate them into a finished product. Industrial capacity refers to the ability to fabricate each component part that goes into the final product and assemble it using indigenous labor. Knowledge encompasses the know-how to design and manufacture component parts, together with requisite competence in areas such as systems engineering, which is critical to integrating various complex systems into a working unit.4

Developing countries incapable of producing cutting-edge fighters on their own must seek to acquire complete aircraft or technologies from coun­tries willing to sell them advanced aircraft or to export or codevelop the rele­vant technologies. However a number of factors might dissuade countries with an advanced aviation technology base from exporting aircraft or advanced avi­ation technologies to a particular developing country. The exporter country might view such transfers as potentially harmful to its security interests if it is unsure about the developing country’s long-term intentions. It might seek to avoid entering into a technology transfer relationship out of deference to its relationship with allies or other customers. Allies might use leverage to dis­suade potential exporters from making arms sales or technology transfers to developing countries about which they have security concerns. Nevertheless, access to foreign advanced fighters and aviation technology is critical for devel­oping countries seeking to build a modern air force.

Ballistic and Cruise Missile Systems

In 2009, the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense reported that:15

The PLA has currently deployed more than 1,300 short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in areas opposite Taiwan. . . various kinds of improved missiles continue to be mass-produced and gradually assigned to the PLA. In the future, the PLA will continue to research and manufacture high precision and interception-resistant ballistic missiles, and deploy super­sonic cruise missiles, which will enable rapid multi-wave missile assaults against Taiwan, and it can conduct precision strikes against Taiwan’s critical political and military infrastructures, airports, sea ports, and military bases.

In May 2010, the Pentagon noted that the “PRC’s Second Artillery maintains at least five operational SRBM brigades; an additional two bri­gades are subordinate to PLA ground forces—one garrisoned in the Nanjing

MR [Military Region] and the other in the Guangzhou MR. All SRBM units are deployed to locations near Taiwan"16 Table 13-5 lists the PLAs ballistic missiles.

Table 13-5. PLA Ballistic Missiles

Designation (CN/NATO)












































DF-31A/ CSS-9 Mod-2










ICBM: intercontinental ballistic missile IRBM: intermediate-range ballistic missile MRBM: medium-range ballistic missile

SLBM: submarine-launched ballistic missile SRBM: short-range ballistic missile

Source: Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2010 ; "Strategic Missile Systems," at SinoDefence. com, accessed September 28, 2010, at: <www. sinodefence. com/strategic/weapon. asp>. The more conservative estimate was used.

Land attack cruise missile (LACM) systems are proliferating in the global defense community, and the PLA had been quick to pick up on their signifi­cance. As with its earlier aircraft and missile programs, it has moved to acquire foreign cruise missile technology from abroad, going to Russia and the Ukraine, but seeking to exploit relevant technologies from other countries as well. Report­edly, between 1999 and 2001, Ukraine delivered Kh-55 (NATO AS-15) cruise missiles to the PRC, which also reportedly received detailed design information of another variant of the Kh-55 from Russia.17 According to one analyst:18

Current development projects reportedly include Chang Feng (CF), Hong Niao (HN), and Dong Hai (DH), with possible range between 400~1,800km.

It is likely that even if the U. S. tried to deny GPS [global positioning system] signals to China, the PLAs cruise missiles could still function via the Rus­sian GLONASS, or in the future the European GALILEO navigation signals.

China is also developing its own “Compass Satellite Navigation System"

which would eventually comprise 5 geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellites and 30 medium Earth orbit satellites to provide a global cover.

The Second Artillery, which established a conventional missile force in the 1990s, complementing its strategic nuclear force established earlier, is cred­ited with possessing up to 300 DH-10 LACMs.19 The PLAN possesses numer­ous YJ-62 (C-602) and YJ-82/YJ-83 (C-802/803) antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs), giving it a robust capability to interdict and offset Taiwan’s naval forces, and perhaps those of other parties, such as the United States, that might intervene on its behalf.20

Regarding the Second Artillery’s long-range cruise missile (LRCM) capabilities, Martin Andrew has noted that:

The Chang Jian (Long Sword) CJ-10 (DH-10) long-range cruise missile system reportedly started trials with the Second Artillery Force in 2004 and between 50 and 250 missiles had been deployed along with between 20 and 30 launch vehicles as of September 2009. The Chinese media ini­tially revealed their existence during the 60th Anniversary Parade. The CJ-10 is identified by three long launch canisters, square in circumfer­ence, mounted on the rear of the Chinese WS 2400 8 x 8 tractor-eleva­tor-launcher (TEL), and the missile has a reported range of over 1,500km and up to 2,000 km.21

Deputy Chiefs of Staff

The PLAAF deputy chief of staff and assistant chief of staff positions are at Corps rank (young assistant chiefs of staff are usually at the deputy Corps level) and normally serve as an important stepping-stone to more senior posts.

The importance of these roles is to bring promising commanders of tactical units (divisional and forward bases) to the headquarters to familiarize them with higher command and strategic management. If the top PLAAF leadership is composed of generals of different age clusters separated by about 5 years, deputy chiefs of staff are reserved for candidates for deputy MR positions either in air force headquarters in Fuxingmen (Я^ПЙ¥Лй) or in the seven air force regions. Since the mid-1990s, almost all PLAAF deputy chiefs of staff have advanced further, to the deputy MR rank or higher.

The following is the list of past deputy PLAAF chiefs of staff since that time:

■ Xu Qiliang (1£Йй, 1993-1994, AF commander)

■ Wang Liangwang (ЇЙЕ, 1994-1996, deputy AF commander)

■ He Weirong (ЙЙ®, 1996-2002, deputy AF commander)

■ Jia Yongsheng (™ж£, 1996-2003, regional commander)

■ Ma Xiaotian (ЦШ^, 1997-1998, deputy PLA chief of general staff)

■ Liu Zuoxin (МТІЛ, 1998 regional commander)

■ Jiang Jianzeng 2000-2004, regional commander)

■ Zhou Liaqian (M№®, 2000-2004, regional commander)

■ Zhao Zhongxin (M^f^, 2004-2005, deputy AF commander)

■ Yang Guohai (ЫШ’М, 2005-2006, PLAAF chief of staff).

The present deputy chiefs of staff have an average age of 53 and are des­tined to take over more senior commanding positions, as the entire pool of incumbent deputy PLAAF commanders and regional commanders (whose average age is about 62) will be replaced in accordance with the “63 and out” regulation.

Currently, there are four deputy chiefs of staff in the PLAAF headquarters:

Major General Zhang Jianping (ЖШ¥) was born in 1956 and enlisted in the PLAAF in 1974. He now assists the chief of staff, overseeing operations and training. For instance, he was the PLAAF representative in the Sino-Russo joint military exercise Peace Mission 2009 in the Zhaonan Joint Tactical Train­ing Base in the Jinan MR in July 2009. After the exercise, he made a widely cir­culated speech on how the PLAAF should learn the best air force theory and practices of the foreign counterparts, noting “Joint exercises and exchange of personnel with other militaries would be a very useful means for absorbing the good experiences of foreign air forces and this will have profound impact on PLAAF transformation.”18

Zhang had already served in various key commanding posts before com­ing to the PLAAF headquarters. He was regimental commander at the age of 27 and commander of the 3d Fighter Division a few years later (the elite of all elite divisions in the PLAAF). Being the first “fist unit” equipped with the Su-27 in the mid-1990s, he led the first team from the division to Russia to receive the Su-27 and become the first of the Su-27 pilot cadre in the PLAAF. He was promoted to be commander of the 9th Corps and deputy commander of the Beijing MRAF. There is no doubt he was marked early as a candidate for the service’s senior leader. As first deputy chief of staff, he is poised to replace Yang Guohai.19

Major General Yi Xiaoguang (Z, K^) was born in 1958 into a military family and was one of 296 PLA deputies to the 17th Party National Congress.20 In charge of training and headquarters affairs, he is the most promising and the youngest officer at the full corps rank in Fuxingmen, and the second young­est in the entire PLAAF. His rise was swift and impressive: joining the PLAAF in 1974 at the age of 16, he studied at the Baoding Aviation School (ЇІЙ) for a year, and became a commander at the battalion level 3 years later at the age of 20. He studied in the PLAAF Command Academy in 1984, laying the foun­dation for his own subsequent “helicopter rise.” He reached the post of deputy division commander in 1989 at the age of 31 and division command in 1992, director of the Department of Training in the PLAAF Headquarters in 1996 (the youngest grade-two Department head at the time), and deputy chief of staff of Guangzhou AF region in 2002.

Before being appointed to his current post, Yi was president of the famous Air Force Command Academy (AFCA) in Haidian, Beijing. In PLA tradition, it is relatively easy to find a capable corps commander, but very dif­ficult to locate a capable president for a top military university.21 When he was divisional commander in 1992, Yi composed The Chinese/English Manual for Jet Pilots, something quite unique for a combat pilot with no formal higher education and an achievement helpful for his appointment to the presidency of the AFCA.22 Clearly, Yi was brought back to the PLAAF headquarters to man­age the routine work at the apex of power before taking on more senior posi­tions elsewhere in the future.

Major General Wang Yisheng (iN.±) was an interesting appoint­ment in 2009, for he was clearly a “rescued cadre.” He was commander of the AF Weapons Experimental Base in Jiuquan (Shuanchengzi Base,

Site), Gansu Province, having spent fully 38 years in the base since joining the PLAAF in 1968.23 He transformed it into the PLA’s most sophisticated and largest electronic warfare center. Wang was transferred to Beijing following Hu Jintaos instruction that the CMC should take good care of the cadres who have served in remote and poor provinces for a lengthy period of time, such as

Tibet, Xinjiang, Gansu, and Qinghai, where living conditions are harsh. Wang is now assisting the chief of staff in managing technological affairs and weap­ons research and development programs.

Major General Dan Zhiping (jl®^), born in 1957, assists the chief of staff in matters of training and foreign affairs in the headquarters. He was assis­tant chief of staff between 1994 and 1999 in his late 30s (a remarkably young age for the post). He assumed the current position after transfer from deputy chief of staff of the Chengdu AF region in 2008. Before that, he also served as deputy chief of staff of the Lanzhou AF region. In 2007 he was sent to study at “the Generals’ course” (ЩЩЩ) in the PLA NDU where he was cited as an excellent student. His graduation thesis on training in a combat situation using simulation facilities furnishing “Red” versus “Blue” force scenarios and prac­tice won high praise. He was subsequently chosen to supervise further study resulting in an influential colloquium in which the main ideas expressed by participants were subsequently published in the PLA Daily.24 Clearly he is a ris­ing star in the PLAAF.

Buy, Build, or Steal

Countries whose overall level of economic development and relatively backward aviation industry limit their aircraft production capability have the three basic options of purchase (buy), indigenous development (build), or espionage (steal) in their efforts to develop a modern air force. For countries in this situation, all three options have significant limitations.


Buying imported aircraft allows a developing country to obtain more advanced fighters than its indigenous aviation industry can produce. Buying complete aircraft offers a developing country a relatively fast way to build its air force’s combat capability (although in practice it may take 4 to 5 years from the time a deal is signed until a unit equipped with a new fighter reaches ini­tial operational capability). Often a deal to purchase advanced fighters includes flight training, assistance with maintenance, and the acquisition of spare parts necessary to maintain operational readiness. This can not only speed the intro­duction of the aircraft into service, but also improve the acquiring air force’s human capital and overall capabilities. Because purchasers usually have the opportunity to “fly before they buy,” there is a clearer sense of what the capa­bilities of the aircraft will be and less risk of technological failure or inadequate performance.

The disadvantages of building a modern air force using imported air­craft include the relatively high cost, limited transfer of technology to the avia­tion sector, and continuing dependence on foreign suppliers. Buyers are also limited to the aircraft that supplying companies are willing to sell; advanced countries often restrict the type of aircraft or the sophistication of avionics and weapons systems that can be exported due to strategic concerns or to maintain a technological advantage for their own air force. A common approach is to export last generation systems or watered-down versions of the most advanced fighters. This enables the United States, Russia, and European powers to main­tain a long-term competitive advantage in military aviation technology and a measure of airpower dominance over their customers.

Purchases of complete aircraft do not produce jobs or technological spin-offs for the acquiring countries (though this may be partly overcome by the use of offsets in the contract that require the seller to accept payment in the form of goods produced by the buyer). Finally, the acquiring country will usu­ally have a limited capacity to produce spare parts for an imported aircraft or to modernize its systems, resulting in long-term dependence on the seller in order to keep the aircraft flying or to update an older aircraft’s systems. This can be problematic if the seller’s economy goes through a major transition (note, for example, India’s difficulty in acquiring spare parts for its Soviet air­craft following the breakup of the Soviet Union) or if changes in political rela­tions make the supplier unwilling to continue to provide spare parts and main­tenance (compare Iran’s U. S.-built McDonnell-Douglas F-4, Northrop F-5, and Grumman F-14 aircraft following the Iranian revolution in 1979). Varia­tions on the “buy” option such as coproduction are discussed later in this study.


The pure “build” option requires planning, designing, and producing the desired fighter system utilizing only indigenous knowledge and production facilities. A developing country may invest significant resources in research and development (R&D) to build its domestic aviation technology production base. However, this requires a significant investment of both capital and human knowl­edge and presents large opportunity costs on both fronts. If a developing country seeks to push its aviation sector well beyond the technological development of its broader economy, this entails costly efforts with limited broader payoffs as scarce engineering talent and resources are focused on narrow military applications. If a developing country tries to push the overall technological capacity of the broader economy, this entails a much longer time period before improvements spill over and raise the technological level of the aviation industry.

The chief advantages of indigenous development are that a developing country can master the technologies required to design and build a fighter, limit its reliance on imported parts and technologies (and thus its potential vulnerability to a cutoff that might limit combat readiness), and diffuse some benefits of aircraft R&D and production into the broader economy (in the form of jobs and technology spin-offs). Over time, indigenous production can lay the foundation for a domestic aviation industry capable of designing, pro­ducing, and potentially exporting complete fighter aircraft.

The disadvantages are that a developing country’s aviation industry may only be able to produce low-quality aircraft with limited combat capability, that large technological hurdles and a high learning curve must be overcome to establish an advanced aviation industry, and that the long period required to learn to develop and produce a modern fighter may yield aircraft that are obsolete before they are fielded. There is also no guarantee that investments in aviation R&D and production capacity will pay off. Few defense projects his­torically have been more costly, slower, or more prone to unforeseen difficul­ties than those undertaken to produce new fighter aircraft.5 It is possible for a developing country pursuing the economic and technological spinoffs from indigenous design and production to spend much more than it would have cost to buy an advanced fighter from a foreign supplier, only to wind up with an inferior aircraft. Japan’s F-2 fighter provides a good illustration.


A developing country can use surreptitious means to steal design and technology information on aircraft and aircraft components that it lacks the knowledge to design and produce domestically. This can be accomplished using covert procurement (often through third countries), traditional espio­nage methods, or computer network intrusion methods to exfiltrate the desired information. Individuals with access to information on classified weapons sys­tems are prime targets of foreign intelligence organizations. Cyber espionage attacks against U. S. targets including military/government organizations and defense contractors have reportedly been successful in obtaining sensitive, though not classified, data.6 The “steal” option can be used to gain blueprints or examples of weapons to use in reverse engineering a subsystem or to develop countermeasures that make a threat aircraft less effective in combat.

The principal advantage of the “steal” option is the potential to acquire advanced systems or technologies that other countries are unwilling to sell. In some cases, espionage can allow a country to acquire advanced technol­ogy without spending funds on its own research and development. The dis­advantages include a developing country’s limited ability to absorb or repli­cate stolen systems and technologies without technological support from the manufacturer, the haphazard and potentially incomplete access to systems and technologies through clandestine or surreptitious means, and the potential for espionage to send a country’s aviation industry down a blind alley. In discussing the degree to which China has employed the “steal” option, we should differ­entiate its comprehensive efforts to collect and assimilate open source defense information (for example, through the China Defense Science and Technology Information Center) from its efforts to obtain restricted technologies covertly, by way of either traditional or cyber espionage. Exploiting the volumes of tech­nical open source information produced in developed countries is an effective, legitimate, and predictable way to acquire knowledge.7

Of these three main avenues to technology procurement, the “build” option is the only one with the potential to stimulate innovation and create a broad-based domestic aviation industry from a low initial starting point. The United States and Russia produce the world’s most complex fighter aircraft and, although they gained the ability in the midst of different economic and politi­cal circumstances, both were only able to reach this status through the ability to develop new technologies. Simply buying fighter aircraft from another coun­try, with no plans to reverse engineer or coproduce, does not help a develop­ing country move toward self-reliance. The steal option can have benefits if a developing country is able to obtain the information it needs without having to expend the necessary resources on R&D. However, simply possessing a blue­print does not guarantee success in reproducing the design, especially for a developing country with a limited aerospace production capacity.

Airfields and Runway Availability

Both the PRC and Taiwan possess numerous airfields and operating locations in the Taiwan Strait region, and the PRC also has extensive basing facilities farther inland that give it a measure of security that Taiwan, because of its island status, cannot possess. In the Nanjing Military Region alone, there are more than 40 airfields, all of whose runways are longer than 7,000 feet, easily capable of supporting fighter and strike aircraft operations. On Taiwan, there are 12 air bases, with more than 23 runways longer than 7,000 feet. There are five highway strips longer than 8,000 feet that can be used as emergency runways.22

Unmanned Aerial Systems

In recent years, the PRC has been actively scouting, purchasing, and devel­oping technologies to support its indigenous unmanned aerial systems (UAS) programs. The PRC’s unmanned aerial vehicles (e. g., W-50 pilotless aircraft) have already entered into active service with PLA units and have reportedly attained “combat effectiveness.”23

In 2007, Hsu Sho-hsuan of the Taipei Times reported that:

A large number of recently decommissioned fighter aircraft have been turned into pilotless drone planes to be used together with Harpy anti­radar unmanned aerial vehicles purchased from Israel. These could help PRC punch holes in Taiwan’s air defense systems and destroy key targets.24

As for Taiwan, its UAS aircraft are assigned to army aviation forces and to the Special Forces Command, and are used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes.

Assistant Chiefs of Staff

The post of assistant chief of staff serves as a stepping-stone for further promotion for most of the assistant chiefs. They are selected from promising young commanders at the deputy corps rank, either from combat units at cam­paign levels or specialized/technical departments in Fuxingmen. Oftentimes they are hand-picked by chiefs of staff personally and work closely with top commanders there. They usually enj oy good personal ties with the top AF brass and link the top command to the grass-roots forces. Currently the PLAAF has four assistant chiefs of staff, each with a unique background.

Major General Li Shaomin ($ШШ) joined the PLAAF in 1968 and now specializes in air force education. He was a top-grade jet pilot and regi­mental commander until 1996 when he was promoted to be deputy com­mandant of the 1st Flying Academy. From then on he served as commandant of the 3d Flying Academy (1999); deputy president of Air Force University of Engineering (2001); and president of PLAAF Aviation University in 2003. He has held his current position since 2008. He assists the chief of staff in over­seeing university education in the air force. Given his age, his career pros­pects seem to be limited, particularly as his current duty is not directly related to combat operations.

Major General Wang Weining (Пт) was recently promoted to the position from the directorship of the second department (intelligence) of the PLAAF. He assists the chief of staff in managing intelligence-related matters, public affairs, and foreign affairs.

Major General Lin Tao (#>#) has long served in air force units in north­west provinces such as Tibet. He was recently promoted to the major general rank (2009). In Fuxingmen, he assists the chief of staff in headquarters affairs and daily running of the staff department.

Major General Zheng Yuanlin (Й^#) is also a rising star in the PLAAF, as seen from his fast upward advancement in the last 3 years. In 2008 he was commander of the 13th Division (the PLA’s strategic transportation division). The next year he became commander of the PLAAF’s Wuhan Base at deputy corps rank. The following year he was appointed deputy chief of staff of the PLAAF Guangzhou MR. He was in Guangzhou for barely a year before being brought back to Beijing to be an assistant chief of staff of the Air Force.

Zheng has excelled both as a transport pilot and transport commander. He was selected as one of the best air force commanders in 2007, following his command of Il-76s deployed in the Sino-Russian Peace Mission 2007 exercise in Russia. During the catastrophic snow and ice storm in South China in Jan­uary 2008, he was placed in charge of the PLA’s air relief missions. In a week, the 13th Division’s Il-76s conducted 75 emergency sorties and carried about 800 tons of goods to 19 airports in eight provinces. In the Wenchuan earth­quake rescue operations, the 13th Division made a huge contribution.25 It was very difficult for large transports to take off and land in concentrated sorties, in tough weather conditions (e. g., visibility less than 100 meters), and on air­ports with only rudimentary facilities.26 Even so, operations were conducted with complete safety. Just days after he arrived in Beijing to take his current job, the Yushu earthquake struck; again the PLA entrusted him to command relief operations by both the 13th Division and the Chengkong Division.

Given that he is both in his early 50s and in the right place at the right time—on the verge of the forthcoming massive leadership reshuffle—it might be expected that his future is a bright one. But he faces a serious obstacle: in the entire PLAAF history of pilot cadre management, an airlift pilot has never risen very far in the leadership. As in other air forces, young and accomplished fighter pilots form the traditionally favored cadre. Within the PLAAF, the fighter divisions comprise over 55 percent of the total, attack aircraft divisions 30 percent, and bomber/transport divisions just 15 percent.27 Three transport divisions (the new division in the Chengdu AF Region, and the 13th and 34th Divisions) form a “minority” in the PLAAF structure. As a result, given the PLAAF’s past tradition, it will be interesting to see how far Zheng goes.

Hybrid Approaches: Reverse Engineering, Coproduction, and Codevelopment

Hybrid approaches blend elements of buy, build, and steal in different combinations. This section considers reverse engineering, coproduction, and codevelopment as means of developing and acquiring aviation technology and building an advanced military aviation industry.

Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is the process of acquiring an aircraft, weapons system, or component and then taking it apart to understand how it works and poten­tially how to replicate or defeat it. The initial acquisition may be done through legitimate purchase (buy) or covert procurement (steal). Successful reverse engi­neering requires a certain level of technological sophistication in a country’s avia­tion industry (for example, some degree of “build” experience and capacity).

Reverse engineering can serve several functions. Disassembling a mechanical or electronic device reveals its inner workings, yielding under­standing of how it functions, the specific technologies and components involved, and identifying successful design paths that can be emulated. It may be possible to replicate the system or component by producing an exact clone of an aircraft component or weapons system. The knowledge gathered from reverse engineering may be incorporated into a newly designed subsystem that bears some resemblance to the original but is not an exact copy. As in the case of the “steal” option, a developing country might use reverse engineering to gain understanding of an aircraft’s weapons systems or radars so that it can develop effective countermeasures.

Developing countries often assume that reverse engineering can help accelerate development in certain sectors of the economy.8 Examples of weap­ons reverse engineering do not validate this assumption in each case but rather suggest that success depends on a number of country-specific factors. Devel­oping countries sometimes attempt to purchase a small number of sophisti­cated fighters or advanced components from another country for the sole pur­pose of trying to reverse-engineer them in order to produce copies or gain knowledge about the component parts. (China was notorious for its efforts in the 1980s and early 1990s to purchase small quantities of advanced fighters and aviation components.) If a country is able to purchase small quantities and suc­cessfully reverse engineer them, the savings in development time (compared to completely independent development) and money (compared to a purchase of large quantities of aircraft or components) may be significant. However, this runs counter to the seller’s best interests. Advanced arms suppliers such as the United States or Russia have no motivation to sell a small number of fighter aircraft to a country with the industrial capacity to copy them. A more usual variant can occur when a developing country procures a large quantity of an aircraft and then attempts to reverse engineer parts and components to reduce its dependence on the original seller for spare parts. (Both India and China have often pursued this approach.) This option is often explicitly banned by the sales contract, but the buyer may have a limited capacity to enforce these provisions once the sale is complete.

A developing country may also use covert procurement through a third party in order to acquire access to small quantities of an aircraft or component. An ally with legitimate access to advanced fighters or aviation technology may act as a “cut out” and either sell or turn over a working example of the aircraft for reverse engineering purposes. One widely cited example is the assumption that Pakistan, which purchased F-16 fighters from the United States, may have provided China with access to F-16 fighters and components. It is impossible to definitively determine the extent of access China may have had to Pakistani F-16s in the 1980s, but sources claim that Chinese technical personnel visit­ing Pakistan in the early 1980s were allowed to examine the U. S.-made fighter.9 China may also have obtained some access to F-16 technology through its defense cooperation with Israel.10

In some cases, a country may be able to acquire an adversary’s military hardware as a result of serendipitous circumstances, such as cases where a pilot loses his way in bad weather or defects with his aircraft.11 For example, during the second Taiwan Strait crisis in fall 1958, the United States equipped Taiwan’s F-86F Sabres with the AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared (IR)-guided air-to-air mis­sile (AAM). On September 28, 1958, an F-86F fired and hit a PLAAF MiG-17 with a Sidewinder that lodged in the MiG’s fuselage without exploding. The Soviet Union convinced China to turn over the unexploded missile and suc­cessfully reverse engineered it as the K-13. Soviet engineer Gennady Sokolovs­kiy described acquisition of the Sidewinder as, “a university offering a course in missile construction technology which has upgraded our engineering edu­cation and updated our approach to production of future missiles.”12

The biggest benefit of reverse engineering is that a developing country can sidestep some of the R&D investment required to develop advanced weap­ons technologies. Unlike the pure “buy” option where a developing country merely operates the system it purchases, reverse engineering can lead to sig­nificant technical discoveries that propel a nation’s defense industry forward. (The Soviet effort to reverse engineer the AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM is one such instance.) This is not always the case, however. Reverse engineering might allow for better understanding of a complex piece of military hardware, but there is no guarantee that a country can produce an exact clone or functional equiva­lent. Individual components may incorporate materials or be produced using advanced production processes that cannot be easily replicated by a developing country’s aviation industry. (This was initially the case with composite materials and stealth aircraft designed using advanced computer systems, and remains the case for some materials used in high-performance jet engines.) Fighter aircraft present a particular reverse-engineering challenge because of the vast number of complex subsystems (for example, radars, avionics, and engines) that must be integrated into a functional whole. A developing country may obtain access to an advanced fighter, but lack the production capacity to reproduce it. A devel­oping country may be able to reverse engineer and replicate key components, but lack the design skills to integrate them into an existing aircraft.

Possible PRC Military Actions against Taiwan

According to Taiwan and U. S. Government documents, the possible PRC military actions against Taiwan can be categorized into five phases: mili­tary intimidation, blockade, surgical strikes, asymmetric warfare, and amphib­ious invasion.25 Air operations clearly figure prominently in all of these, con­sistent with Deng Xiaoping’s pronouncement that “No matter what, the Air Force is most important in all operations: Army, Navy and Air Force, the first is a strong Air Force.”26 A 2008 White Paper on national defense issued by the PRC stated that:27

The Air Force is a strategic service of the PLA, and the main force for car­rying out air operations. It is responsible for such tasks as safeguarding the country’s territorial air space and territorial sovereignty, and maintaining a stable air defense posture nationwide. It is mainly composed of aviation, ground air defense, airborne, signal, radar, ECM [electronic countermea­sures], technical reconnaissance and chemical defense sections.

Certainly, the PLAAF can be expected to join all the possible military actions against Taiwan. In this regard, the following discussion examines pos­sible PRC military actions against Taiwan, focusing on the role that airpower forces and air warfare would play in them.

Military Intimidation

In its 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Taiwan government noted


The PLA may wage psychological warfare against Taiwan by means of escalation [of] the intensity of its military activities, adjusting force deploy­ments, including forward deployments, field training exercises, firepower demonstration, and use or combine media influences to exaggerate the seriousness of military situation over the Taiwan Strait, so as to stoke internal panic in Taiwan and undermine their will and morale.

From the PLAs perspective, air intimidation offers the prospect of flex­ible, wide-ranging action having strong political and military effect yet with low political and military risk.29 Airpower has the inherent ability to project power at high speed and over long distance without being hindered by the obstacles and difficulties afflicting surface power projection. The combination of airplane and missile make air intimidation a very real prospect. With regard to Taiwan, the PLAs joint-service missiles and aircraft, with their newer fight­ers like the Su-27, J—11, and Su-30, can project power across the entire Taiwan area. Indeed, already, Taiwan is “under” a missile-threat envelope of consid­erable depth and density. The coupling of this with precision navigation and sensing systems—like the various space-based navigation and cuing systems now on line (such as GPS and GLONASS)—make air intimidation more effec­tive and more likely by largely removing the threat of counterproductive col­lateral damage.

Missile intimidation is a core Second Artillery mission, and works to restrain the enemy’s strategic attempts or important risky military actions. The SRBMs of the Second Artillery offer long range, high accuracy, hypersonic speed, high-explosive effects, deep target penetration, and low risk of both interception and collateral damage, thus constituting a very important means of military intimidation. Air intimidation can be performed by means of air – power exercises, which not only demonstrate the threat and potentiality of air- power, but the national determination of the PRC as well. Further, routine air demonstration and intimidation can swiftly and readily transform into higher intensity military action against Taiwan, and, if done gradually and carefully, without necessarily alerting Taiwan’s air defenders.

The Commanders of PLAAF Military Regions

As this is written, the military region air force commanders are all tran­sitioning to retired status. The youngest commanders were born in 1949 and

the oldest in 1947. Jia Yongsheng of the Beijing MRAF and Liu Zhongxing are already over the retirement age.28 The CMC has applied a level of flexibility in service age to some special cases in recent years.29 The current MRAF com­manders will all retire before the end of 2011, unless some “historical acci­dents” happen, such as an outbreak of conflict.

Attention should therefore be focused on the younger and rising stars in the MRAFs, who are in their early 50s, have served in operational front­line posts, and have held senior commanding positions for a number of years. Most are chiefs of staff of MRAFs who proved themselves as the top-grade fighter pilots, commanders of the “fist units” and as staff officers in headquar­ters assignments. They are:

Major General Ma Zhenjun (ЙШ¥), deputy commander and chief of staff of the Beijing MRAF. Born in 1964, he is probably the only major general at the full corps rank in the air force who was born in the 1960s.30 This indi­cates that Ma has distinguished himself in the race to the apex of power. He is now in a unique position to succeed either Jia Yongsheng, his current superior, or to be transferred to another MRAF as commander. It is worth noting that by March 2010 the PLA had only eight post-1960s major generals at the corps level, the youngest being Yang Hui (ШЩ), director of the 2d Department of the GSD.31 Mao Xinyu (^ff^) (Mao Zedong’s grandson) is the only one born in the 1970s. So far, apart from Ma, no other post-1960s corps level officer is found in the PLAAF.

Ma earned his fast promotion after proving himself as a top-grade fighter pilot, an outstanding fighter division commander, and a keen proponent of training. Instead of emphasizing routine technical training, Ma emphasized tactical combat training. When he commanded the 2d Fighter Division, it was rated as having displayed the most proficiency in training for three successive years. He also won three PLA science and technology awards.32

In 2007 Ma was promoted from commander of the 2d Fighter Division to deputy chief of staff of the Guangzhou MRAF, when he was 43. Two years later, he was promoted to deputy commander of the Jinan MRAF (a full corps rank) and again within 1 year he was transferred to his current position. The frequent transfers clearly reflect the air force leadership’s confidence in Ma and their crafting a succession plan for him involving gaining intimate familiarity with various MRAFs and combat units.

Major General Ding Laihong (Т#Ю was born in 1957 and is the sec­ond youngest senior officer among the seven PLAAF MRs (at the full corps rank). He became regimental commander of Regiment 71 of Fighter Division 24 while in his early 30s. From the position of division deputy commander he moved to command of a training base in the Beijing MRAF, a divisional unit.

Like Ma, he emphasized combat-realistic “Red versus Blue” training. In 2001 he was swiftly promoted to chief of staff of the 8th Corps, deployed on the Tai­wan Front, reaching the deputy corps level at the age of 44. When the 8th Corps was reorganized down to the Fuzhou Forward Commanding Post in 2003, Ding remained its foundational head. In 2007 he was promoted to be presi­dent of the Air Force Command Academy. One year later he was transferred to the Chengdu MRAF as its chief of staff. Looking back, Ding has been at the corps-command level for almost a decade. In terms of seniority or in terms of the PLAAF’s demand for a large pool of candidates to complete the forthcom­ing reshuffle, Ding is certainly at the front in the queue.

Major General Zheng Qunliang (ЙЙЙ), born in 1954, is older than Ding, but is still a valid candidate to “catch the last train” to reach deputy MR rank. Previously he was a corps commander who would have had to retire at the age of 55 if he could not advance further; but now, his active service can be extended, perhaps to age 58.33 Zheng, as commander of the PLAAF’s elite 1st Fighter Division, was selected to participate in a PLA senior officers’ delegation to visit the United States in July 2000, a sign of the PLA having identified him as a future PLAAF leader.

After his trip, he wrote a widely distributed article recounting his expe­riences visiting various U. S. Air Force bases.34 For instance, he noticed it took only 15 minutes for an F-15 wing to change munitions, as compared with his division’s 3 hours. He was highly impressed that USAF F-15 Eagle fighter pilots took off in formation, even under heavy clouds below 200 meters (some­thing his own pilots could only do individually under the same conditions) and landed out of steep, descending turns.

At one base in California, he was particularly surprised to find Air Force male and female personnel working together and was impressed with the orderly and systematic airfield operations. He was surprised to find non­commissioned officers supervising flight operations (a task performed only by commanders in a PLAAF fighter division). Zheng concluded that if his com­manders could be freed from such duties, they could devote their attention to more important tasks. He concluded that the more the PLA understood the U. S. military, the more the PLA would know its own shortcomings and be motivated to catch up.

Zheng is a top-grade jet fighter pilot. When he reached the PLAAF’s compulsory nonflight age of 47, he had accumulated 2,200 flying hours. He became commander of Regiment 3 of the 1st Division in 1992, then divisional commander in 1997. In a transregional combat drill under no pre-set flying conditions, he led the division to a deployment at another air base, breaking PLA records for the largest number of aircraft moved on a single mission, traveling the longest distance, and the longest flying time under instrument – only (blind flying) flight conditions. In 1999 he was the in-flight commander for the Air Force National Day Military Parade. The review formation was 7 kilometers (4.34 miles) long, and passed the review stand at Tiananmen Square exactly on time, to the second. This exhibition won him high praise from PLAAF leaders.35 In 2002 he was promoted to commander of the Wuhan base and concurrently deputy commander and chief of staff of the Shenyang MRAF. Clearly, if age is not an obstacle for his advancement, he will receive a more senior post in the PLAAF’s leadership reshuffle.

Major General Zhuang Kezhu (ЙИЙ), chief of staff of the Lanzhou MRAF. He was born in 1955 and rose quickly in his early career. He was com­mander of the 33d Fighter Division, the top division in Southwest China and always the first combat unit to equip with new generation aircraft in that region. He was promoted to commander of the Kunming Forward Headquar­ters in 1999. In 2005 he was transferred to Beijing to serve as assistant chief of staff of the PLAAF, in charge of combat plans and training of air force units in the southwest. He has thus gained valuable access to the top AF leadership on the one hand and had rich commanding experience at the basic campaign units on the other. His future upward movement is certain.

Major General Xu Anxiang (1£Ш¥) is chief of staff of the Nanjing MRAF. In his early 50s, Xu has already acquired valuable experience in com­manding divisional and corps-level operations and training. In 2002 he was commander of the 14th Fighter Division, a unit on constant combat duty in the Nanjing War Zone. He was in charge of the MR’s air force units in the Wenchuan operation when he was deputy chief of the staff. He personally oversaw preparation of aircraft in the Special Rescue Regiment that received emergency mobilization orders at 10:30 p. m. on the night of the earthquake, departing 3 hours later with all necessary materials.36 In 2007 Xu was front­line commander for PLAAF fighters deployed to the Sino-Russian joint mili­tary exercise Peace Mission 2007. This was the first time that PLAAF aircraft had entered a foreign country for combat drills. Xu directed 24 sorties of eight Chinese J-7s and Il-76s within a short period of time. Xu’s division achieved its tactical objectives, even though in a strange location, against unfamiliar tar­gets, and under uncertain circumstances.37 Given the fact that the PLAAF top leadership always selects the most competent commanders to command trans­national military missions, Xu’s experience in the mission was a telling proof of how the PLAAF leadership regarded him. As a richly experienced commander in charge of operations and training in an important air force war zone, he held heavy responsibilities, a contributing factor likely to influence his promotion to higher command in future years.

Major General Sun Herong (ї’Мп®) is chief of staff of the Jinan MRAF (2009). He was deputy chief of staff of Shenyang MRAF (2003-2006) and com­mander of the Dalian Forward Headquarters (2007). His seniority is about the same as that of Ding, Zheng, and Xu, and he is a clear candidate for more important positions. In 2003 he coauthored with Yi Xiaoguang (Z, K^) a book entitled The Stealth Aircraft: A Difficult Adversary (ШШАЖ&М’&Ш-). This highly acclaimed work subsequently proved popular with the PLAAF, then in the midst of examining high-tech warfare.

Clearly, there are many promising commanders among this cluster of relatively young major generals at the MRAF level. A number of other officers are also potential candidates; however, due to limited space, they can only be briefly noted:

Major General Chang Baolin (^S#), deputy commander of the Nan­jing MRAF, was chief of staff of the 1st Corps in 2000 at the age of 44 and then the Guangzhou MRAF’s chief of staff and deputy commander (2005). He is a candidate for commander for one of the MRAFs.

Major General Yang Weidong (Й!^), commander of PLAAF Wuhan Base, was commander of the 31st Fighter Division and deputy chief of staff of the Jinan MRAF. He served briefly as assistant chief of staff of the PLAAF, which gave him close access to top PLAAF leaders. His current job is meant to increase his experience in regional command and campaign level units. He is poised to become chief of staff of one of the MRAFs.

Major General Wang Tieyi (И£Щ). Born in 1959, Wang is deputy chief of staff of the Shenyang MRAF. He was commander of the 9th Fighter Division, which is one of the top divisions in the air force, in 2000. He was selected to study at National Defense University in 2005 and was a deputy leader in the 54th Base of the Strategic Missile Force under the PLA senior officer exchange program of different services. In his capacity of deputy chief of staff of the Shenyang MRAF, Wang was the first-line commander of PLAAF units in the 2009 Sino-Russian Peace Mission joint exercise.

Major General Li Xiangmin (^ЙВД). Born in 1959, Li became com­mander of the PLAAF Nanning Forward Headquarters in 2004 at the age of 45, younger than Ding Laihang (Fuzhou) and Zheng Qunliang (Wuhan) who held the same rank at the same time.


This chapter’s research tentatively reveals a few commonalities in PLAAF leadership politics, especially in regard to the patterns of elite selection and promotion.

First, the leadership selection process is increasingly based upon meritoc­racy and even “expertocracy’ The candidates for top leadership are inevitably well-trained, learned, and internationally exposed. The level of professionalism is very high, both in terms of their careers as airmen and their experience as com­manders. Mediocre officers simply do not make it to the top, given the extremely tough competition among peers. The officers in the CMC and PLAAF cadre reserve lists have to go through several rounds of performance tests, through var­ious commanding posts and at different levels of command. In this regard, the PLAAF is much like professional air forces in other parts of the world.

Second, fighter pilots have dominated the PLAAF leadership from its formative years to the present day. Virtually all top service leaders and lead­ers at the region level are fighter pilots. Partly this is due to the PLAAF force structure that gives numerical advantages to fighter divisions and partly to a tradition dating to the earliest years of the service. Functionally, fighter jets undertake a proportionally higher responsibility for homeland air defense. It is interesting to watch how this tradition will evolve and change, as the air force increasingly emphasizes power projection missions away from home, which will require other types of aircraft to play a larger role. In terms of personal net­works, it is logical and commonplace for the incumbent fighter-pilots turned AF leaders to groom their subordinates into commanding positions. This situ­ation is unlikely to change much any time soon.

Third, the age of the PLAAF’s current leadership will soon force a mas­sive leadership reshuffle at the service and MRAF levels. The generational suc­cession can be expected to be orderly, as an array of candidates is already in place to take over key positions as they become available. This chapter lists a number of them, although it is not an exhaustive examination. If there is no substantial intervening surprise, they will become the next generation of air force leaders. They are younger, better educated, with more flying hours, and more capable of piloting various types of third-generation (fourth-generation in Western terminology) fighter aircraft.

Fourth, the PLA as a whole and the PLAAF in particular have developed a sophisticated, institutionalized, and comprehensive personnel selection and promotion system. It is multi-layered, with a CMC reserve list, a PLAAF list, an MRAF list, a corps list, and a divisional list. Each list normally has 1.5 times the number of personnel who can be promoted to the next level to guarantee that the best make it through the selection filter.38 Different tiers are mutually supportive, as a promising PLAAF candidate can enter the CMC list simultane­ously, to be groomed with a variety of opportunities, as takes place in the other services. As far as the air force is concerned, a pattern of upward mobility is thus clearly visible for those lucky enough to be screened as future top leaders.

They are identified early compared with those in other PLA services, thanks to the service age regulations for combat pilots, whose flying career ends at age 47. In their early 30s they become regimental commanders, get to the divisional rank in their mid to late 30s, and then to corps level posts before age 50. From there they are transferred frequently to gain familiarity with central affairs and different MRAFs, normally staying in one place no more than 2 years. A top air force leader is thus tempered with as much necessary experience as possible.

To stress yet again, meritocracy and expert knowledge of one’s profes­sional career field are now the core defining qualities for the deepening pro­fessionalization of the PLAAF’s top elites. This is seen by the following facts:

■ They are all top-grade pilots, typically rated in several kinds of high-per­formance aircraft (typically fighters), or other aerospace professionals.

■ By the time a commander is selected for a corps-level command, he has gone at least three times to advanced training in military acade­mies (for a deputy MR commander, at least four times).

■ PLAAF officers are given special missions to test their ability in the process of being selected and promoted, such as joint combat drills with foreign military services and large-scale military operations other than war (MOOTW) experience.

■ The selection of future leaders is increasingly open and competitive, using measures such as a satisfactory graduation thesis, peer opinion survey, and examination marks on technological tests (for instance, computer knowledge and skills). All these and others heavily impact subsequent personnel selection. Thus, the scope of arbitrary nomina­tion of favored candidates by individual leaders is markedly decreasing.

In conclusion, the PLAAF is capable of identifying potential leaders and giving them the experience and skills needed to undertake the complicated and tough transformation of turning the air force from a purely defensive force to one with reasonable long-range offensive and defensive power-projection capabilities. The next years will bring about a major reshaping of the PLAAF leadership as those born in the late 1940s and early 1950s give way to younger officers. This will take place in an orderly fashion, though some disruption is likely to occur, with gaps between the right people in the right posts being nar­rowed and bridged only in a gradual manner.

By December 2011 the reshuffle of the military region air force leader­ship had seen five new MRAF commanders: Jiang Jianzeng (>ІЙн), Beijing MR, transferred from the Nanjing MR; Zhang Jianping (ЖШТ), Guangzhou MR; Zhuang Kezhu (SWfi), Lanzhou MR; Yi Xiaoguang (Z, K^), Nanjing

MR; and Zheng Qunliang Jinan MR. Two other air force military

region commanders Fang Dianrong (^)^®),Chengdu MR and Zhou Laiqiang (Ml#®), Shenyang MR have not been changed.