Born in July 1942, in Shandong Province
Grade: CMC Member (Grade 2)
Current Positions: Member, Central Military Commission (CMC), Director of the PLA General Political Department (GPD)
Delegations Headed: August 2001 - Egypt and Syria
October 2000 - Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia
June 1999 - Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar
Comments: Originally from eastern China's Shandong Province, Li spent much of the 1960s at the Harbin Institute of Technology in northeast China, where he graduated with a degree from the school's Engineering Mechanics Department. He joined the Communist Party of China in 1965 and joined the PLA two years later, where he served as a soldier in the Engineering Corps. Li then moved into the PLA's political work system in 1970, where he would spend much of the next three decades of his PLA career. Li spent all of the 1970s in the 2nd Artillery Corps, where he first served as the Deputy Chief Regiment political division propaganda branch and later as the branch's Deputy Political Commissar. He was then promoted to the 2nd Artillery Political Department's Organization Department, where he served as Deputy Director of the department, in addition to heading its sections for Youth and Organization. Li was Deputy Political Commissar of a 2nd Artillery base from 1983 to 1985, although he worked at the All-Army Party Rectification Office for much of that time. Li spent the remainder of the 1980s heading the GPD's Cadre Department and was given the rank of Major General in 1988. He was promoted to Deputy Director of the GPD in 1990, where he served two years. He moved out of the GPD in 1992 when he was transferred to the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND), where he served as Deputy Political Commissar for three years before becoming the organization's Political Commissar in 1995. While at COSTIND, Li was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in 1993. Li was also named as an alternate member of the 14th CPC Central Committee in 1992 before becoming a full member of the 15th CPC Central Committee in 1997. When COSTIND was restructured and the General Armaments Department (GAD) created at the 9th National People's Congress (NPC) in 1998, Li was appointed as the Political Commissar of the new organization. At the 16th CPC Congress in November 2002, Li was promoted to Director of the GAD and named to the Central Military Commission. When GPD Director, Xu Caihou was elevated to CMC Vice Chairman at the 4th Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Congress in October 2004; Li inherited his place as Director of the General Political Department.
As head of the GPD, Li Jinai is responsible for political work throughout the PLA. In addition to ensuring the preservation of the party's absolute leadership over the army and the army's complete loyalty to the party, Li's responsibilities also include overseeing the implementation of ideological work, propaganda work, political education, the military judicial system and the management personnel records within the military. Li also heads the military's system of Political Commissars responsible for the execution of much of the work listed above. While heading the GAD in 2003, Li supervised the monumental launch of Shenzhou V which carried China's first man into space. However, it is unclear whether he will have a role in the next Shenzhou launch rumoured to take place this fall given his new position as GPD head.
Foreign Travel: Li has not travelled much in recent years. His last reported trip abroad was in December 2003, when he accompanied Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan to Russia where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov. Li also led three delegations to Asia, east Africa and the Middle East, respectively, while he was Deputy Political Commissar of the GAD. Li's exposure to the West appears limited with only isolated meetings with western military officials and no reported record of him having travelled to a Western nation in recent years. Many of the visiting dignitaries Li has met with in Beijing recently have hailed from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Pakistan and countries of the former Soviet Union.
The author is an Asia security analyst for the CNA Corporation, Washington, DC.