Biography: Guo Boxiong
Born in July 1942, in Linxuan County, Shaanxi Province
Grade: CMC Vice Chairman (Grade 1)
Current Positions: Vice-Chairman, CCP Central Military Commission; member, CCP Politburo
Delegations Headed: July 2004 – Russia, Egypt and South Africa
December 2001 – Spain and Portugal
April-May 2000 – Argentina, Chile and Brazil
March 1996 – Mongolia
Originally from northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Guo joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1961. Guo has served the majority of his military career in the Lanzhou Military Region (MR) and his first two decades in the PLA were spent with the 19th Army's 55th Division where he became a ground force platoon commander in 1964. Following a brief spell in his regiment's propaganda branch, Guo spent the next fifteen years working in operational training, eventually becoming the head of the Operational Training Division of the 19th Army by 1981. Guo earned a senior technical degree from the PLA's Military Academy in 1983 and continued to be promoted through the ranks at this time. He later became Deputy Chief of Staff of the Lanzhou MR in 1985 and Commander of the 47th Group Army in 1990. Following the purge of brothers Yang Shangkun and Yang Baibing, Guo moved to the Beijing MR in 1993, where he served as Deputy Commander for four years. Guo returned to Lanzhou in 1997, where he served as MR Commander for two years before being promoted to Executive Deputy Chief of the General Staff and elevated to Central Military Commission (CMC) membership in 1999. Guo became a CMC Vice-Chairman and a Politburo member at the 16th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress in 2002.
Guo is presently the highest ranking uniformed officer in the PLA, ranking ahead of Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan in protocol order despite being seven years younger. Both men are believed to be close to former CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin. As a CMC member, Guo is thought to be responsible for issues concerning operational training and force structure, both of which are consistent with his background. Guo has been an active participant in orchestrating several large-scale military exercises including the 2001 "Liberation One" combined forces exercise on Dongshan Island off the coast of Taiwan.
Like many senior military officials, Guo has not had any extensive travel abroad. His most recent trip took him to Russia, Egypt and South Africa in July 2004 where he met with senior leaders and toured local military academies. In addition to the delegations Guo has led, he has also accompanied other senior leaders including Jiang Zemin and Chi Haotian on overseas visits. Guo was supposed to have visited the United States in May 2001 but this trip was cancelled in the fallout of the EP-3 crisis that April. Guo has also met with several visiting foreign dignitaries in recent years including US General Richard Myers and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, who both visited China in 2004.
The author is an Asia security analyst for the CNA Corporation, Washington, DC.