World Bulletin / News Desk
China reshuffled its top military ranks on Tuesday, weeks before a once-in-a-decade generational leadership change which sources said would see the outgoing air force commander promoted to vice-chairman of the military's top decision-making body.
General Ma Xiaotian, 63, was named air force commander, replacing General Xu Qiliang, 50, state broadcaster CCTV said.
Ma has been one of the secretive military's most visible faces, speaking at forums overseas and leading talks with U.S. defence officials.
The report did not say what would happen to Xu.
But three independent sources with ties to the top leadership and the People's Liberation Army said Xu was tipped to be named one of two vice-chairmen of the powerful Central Military Commission.
The government generally does not comment on elite politics and personnel changes before the official announcement.
Xu's air force background means he can be expected to champion their interests at the centre of power, including the development of China's first indigenous stealth fighter.
Xu is one of eight members of the military commission, which is headed by President Hu Jintao, also the ruling Communist Party's top official.
Hu is widely expected to step down as party chief during a congress which opens on Nov. 8 and as president during the annual session of parliament next March. Anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping will almost certainly take over both posts.
But sources and analysts are divided over whether Hu will follow in his the footsteps of hi predecessor Jiang Zemin, who hung on to the military chairmanship for two years after stepping down as party chief.
Hu, 69, has not made public his plans for retirement but, unlike in the West where former presidents and prime ministers tend to fade from the public eye, Chinese leaders seek to maintain influence to avoid possible adverse political repercussions down the road and preserve their legacy.
Hu's most noticeable legacy was mending fences with self-ruled democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, after bilateral ties plunged as a result of menacing Chinese war games in the run-up to the island's landmark direct presidential elections in 1996.
Still, the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army, the world's biggest armed forces, has rattled the region with an ambitious build-up overseen by Hu, including the launch of the country's first aircraft carrier.
There has also been tension between China and Japan over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, as well as between China and various Southeast Asian claimants over the South China Sea.
A suicide attack targeting a senior Afghan election commission official has killed one guard and injured several others in capital Kabul Saturday. Hawliya Rodwal, Kabul provincial director of the commission, escaped the blast unhurt.
The military has confirmed that an Indonesian ‘expert bomb-maker’ was found among 8 fighters killed in firefight earlier this week
Weapons makers bid to supply new submarines to Australia, after Japan lifts ban that prohibited weapons sales in line with post-WWII pacifistic constitution
Week of Peace events in troubled Philippines south aim to bring different religious communities together, heal rifts of recent years
Police say muezzin has been killed and three worshippers wounded in the shooting, a rare attack on minority Shiite Muslims
Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau says pollutants emitted by vehicles in city will be cut by as much as 30 percent by 2022
Provoking anger and amusement, Taiwanese flag appeared alongside in ISIL propaganda video released listed Taiwan as one of Washington's 'close counterterrorism partners' in Asia-Pacific
China calls for peace and stability after Japan, US agree to continue drills in disputed sea
Minister says violence not the answer as police hunt continues for ISIL militants in mountains of Indonesia's north
Haroon Bhatti, founding member of outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, was arrested in Dubai last month and brought back to Pakistan
Muslims in Myanmar have been banned from printing their own calendars, with senior Buddhist monks imploring for stricter sentencing on the publisher and his associates.
PM Abe says Japan to pledge $10.6 billion for climate policies in developing countries
'Tragic but avoidable accident (was) caused primarily by human error,' General John Campbell says
Japanese, US officials decide to hold joint exercises in contested sea amid China's maritime expansion
'Seven people - six pilgrims and the lady pilot - died in the crash,' a police official says
Residents rush for open space as tremors shake cities across region