The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sweeping changes in China army

Beijing, Nov. 14 (Reuters): China heralded a sweeping reshuffle at the top of the world’s largest army today when all generals over 70 on its Central Military Commission (CMC) left the party’s Central Committee.

But it was still unclear if President Jiang Zemin — who also left the Central Committee and is due to hand over as party chief to Hu Jintao tomorrow — would remain head of the CMC, which commands the 2.5 million strong armed forces.

The promotion of a new generation of generals more savvy about the West and high technology warfare could accelerate the modernisation of the PLA and help institutionalise civil-military ties, analysts say.

Neither of the 11-man CMC’s two uniformed vice-chairmen — Zhang Wannian, 74, and defence minister Chi Haotian, 73 — were on the new Central Committee elected at the close of the party’s 16th congress today.

Cao Gangchuan, 67, Guo Boxiong, 60, and Xu Caihou, 59, were the only CMC members who kept their seats, Xinhua said, indicating they were frontrunners for the vice-chairmanships.

“If we exclude Jiang Zemin from the equation for the moment, it's a pretty thorough generational change in the military, perhaps a little deeper than we might have expected,” said one Western diplomat.

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