Biography: Xu Caihou
Born in June 1943, in Liaoning Province
Grade: CMC Vice Chairman (Grade 1)
Current Positions: Vice-Chairman, Central Military Commission; Member, CPC Secretariat
Delegations Headed: April 2004 – Cuba and Mexico
November 2003 – United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal
August 2003 – North Korea
June 2000 – Russia, Finland and Ukraine
Comments: Originally from Liaoning province in northeast China, Xu joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1963 spending his first five years in the service as a student at the Harbin Academy of Military Engineering, where he studied Electrical Engineering. Upon graduation in 1968, Xu spent two years doing manual labour on a farm during the Cultural Revolution and became a CPC member shortly thereafter. Xu would spend much of the next two decades in northeast China's Shenyang Military Region (MR) beginning with brief stints as a soldier and a deputy political instructor in the early seventies followed by ten years as a secretary and then deputy chief of the Jilin Military District. From 1982-84 Xu headed two Political Departments in the Military District before briefly heading the Mass Work Department in the Shenyang MR Political Department. In 1985 Xu was appointed head of the 16th Group Army Political Department where he served for five years before becoming the Army's Political Commissar in 1990. He was transferred to Beijing in 1992 where he worked as an assistant to the Head of the PLA's General Political Department (GPD) and briefly served as Director of the PLA's main newspaper the Liberation Army Daily in 1993 in the politically sensitive period following the purge of brothers Yang Shangkun and Yang Baibing. Xu served as Deputy Director of the GPD in 1993 and was appointed Political Commissar of the Jinan MR in 1996. At the 15th CPC Congress in 1997, Xu became a member of the CPC Central Committee as well as a member of the Central Military Commission. In 1999 he became the Executive Deputy Director of the GPD and became the Secretary of the CMC's Discipline and Inspection Commission a year later. At the 16th CPC Congress in 2002 Xu became a member of the CPC Secretariat, the organization responsible for administering Party affairs. He took over leadership of the GPD in 2003 and was elevated to CMC Vice-Chairman in late 2004 ceding leadership of the GPD to Li Jinai.
Xu is one of the only three CMC Vice-Chairmen, ranking third behind Generals Guo Boxiong and Cao Gangchuan in protocol order. His position on the Secretariat places Xu as an important liaison between the military and civilian leadership as well as between the party and the military. Xu is thought to be close to both Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.
Foreign Travel: Like many senior members of the PLA, Xu is not particularly well travelled. His most recent trip took him to Cuba and Mexico where he met with state and military leaders including Fidel Castro and Senior General Raul Castro. Xu made two trips abroad the previous year including a visit to North Korea where he met with Kim Jong-il a week before the first round of the six-party talks to discuss the state of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. A review of his foreign travel as well as press reports of his meetings with visiting delegations indicate that Xu has likely had only limited contacts with westerners.
The author is an Asia security analyst for the CNA Corporation, Washington, DC.