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China names new political commissar of PLA logistic department

A rising military star has recently been made the top political officer of the People’s Liberation Army’s logistics department under the direct leadership of the Central Military Commission – filling the void left by General Liu Yuanwho resigned 10 months ago, sources say.

“Lieutenant General Zhang Shengmin has just assumed the position of political commissar of the newly founded Logistic Support Department,” a Beijing-based source close to the PLA told the South China Morning Post, adding that Zhang appeared to have a bright military future.

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A Shaanxi native, Zhang, 58, served with the PLA’s Second Artillery Corpsfor decades before he was named the founding political commissar of the commission’s Training Management Department in February.

Ongoing military reforms – the biggest in decades – were championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the commission chairman, earlier this year.

The changes have seen the PLA’s four general headquarters dissolved into 15 departments under the direct leadership of the commission. The Training Management Department was newly created, while the Second Artillery Corps had its name changed to the Rocket Force.

A mainland media source, who confirmed Zhang’s appointment, said he would enjoy a deputy military-region-level status, rather than a full military-region-level status, despite succeeding Liu – the son of former president Liu Shaoqi – who held a full military-region-level status before his retirement.

“It could be a ‘new normal’, where officers who remain in their positions retain their original status while newcomers are entitled only to a relatively lower status,” said the source, stressing that the status of General Zhao Keshi, director of the Logistic Support Department, would be higher than that of Zhang, the department’s political commissar.

In this sense, the status of the Logistic Support Department has been downgraded from a full military-region-level department to a deputy-military-region level, as one of the 15 departments in the restructuring.

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Before the reforms, the PLA’s Four General Headquarters – including the former General Logistics Department, where Liu was the political commissar for years – enjoyed wide-ranging powers, including the sourcing of arms and the appointment of senior military officers.

It remains to be seen whether the newly founded Joint Staff Department and the Political Work Department, which will also be under the commission’s control, will similarly have their status downgraded.

Zhang previously served in the Lanzhou military region as well as at the PLA’s 53rd, 55th and 56th bases under the former Second Artillery Corps. He was the political commissar of the Second Artillery Command College for about one year between 2012 and 2013.