Xu Caihou

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Xu Caihou
Xu Caihou 2009.jpg
Xu during the discussion regarding security at the Pentagon in October 2009.
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
In office
September 2004 – 15 November 2012
Serving with Guo Boxiong and Xi Jinping
Chairman Hu Jintao
Secretary of the Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Central Military Commission
In office
Preceded by Zhou Ziyu
Succeeded by Zhang Shutian
Personal details
Born June 1943 (age 71)
Wafangdian, Liaoning, China
Political party Communist Party
Alma mater Harbin Military Engineering Institute
Military service
Allegiance  People's Republic of China
Service/branch People's Liberation Army
Years of service 1968–2012
Rank PLAGeneral r.svg.png General
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Xu.

Xu Caihou (Chinese: 徐才厚; pinyin: Xú Cáihòu; born June 1943) is a former member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission and General of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.[1] He succeeded Hu Jintao in the Vice Chairmanship of the Central Military Commission on 19 September 2004 upon the latter's promotion to the chairmanship.[2] He retired from public office in 2013. He was put under investigation for accepting bribery in March and expelled from the Communist Party in June 2014. [3]

Early life and education[edit]

Xu was born in 1943 to a working-class family in Liaoning province; his parents were factory workers.[4] He attended the Harbin Military Engineering Institute in Harbin, where he studied electrical engineering. He graduated in 1968, in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, whereupon he was sent to the countryside to perform manual agricultural labour for over a year.[4] Subsequently, Xu enlisted in the army as an officer cadet. After graduating and joining the officer corps, it took him four years to earn his first promotion.


After the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping was eager to promote young university graduates as part of his military-reform program. Beginning in 1982, Xu earned a series of quick promotions. Xu served in Jilin province for much of his early career, generally in roles that facilitated military/political relations.

He became the political commissar of the 16th Group Army in 1990. In an incident upon moving to Beijing for work, Xu was offered an air conditioner to cope with the city's summer heat, as a gift from a classmate in university. He reportedly refused the offer, on the grounds that he did not want to have a privilege that his superior officer, who was managing without an air conditioner, lacked.[4]

Next, Xu served as the chief editor of the People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper.

In 1996, he became the political commissar of the Jinan Military Region. He was promoted to the rank of General (Shang Jiang) in 1999 and joined the Central Military Commission, the supreme military policy-making body of the state, in the same year. Xu's mission in facilitating "political affairs" in the military meant that, in practice, he was in charge of the promotion and performance evaluation of army officers.[4]

Xu's ascendancy in the military also resulted in his rise in the Communist Party's political hierarchy. In 2002, he became a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, being elected at the 1st Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee.

In 2007, he was appointed to the Politburo, being elected at the 1st Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee.

During his term as Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman that began in 2004, Xu had authority over personnel decisions in the upper echelons of the military.[5] Xu was seen by some observers as the day-to-day executive authority in the upper military ranks because the then CPC General Secretary and Central Military Chairman Hu Jintao, nominally Xu's superior, took a relatively hands-off approach to military affairs.[5]


According to subsequent accusations, the practice of exchanging "cash for ranks" was widespread during Xu's term as Vice-Chairman; the practice was ostensibly common from the highest-ranking officers to the rank-and-file petty officers.[5] Xu retired from the Central Military Commission in 2013.

It was reported in March 2014 that Xu, then aged 70, had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and was undergoing extensive treatment at the 301 Military Hospital in Beijing.[6] A corruption probe was opened at around the same time. There was speculation among some in the military that Xu would be 'spared' charges due to his ill-health.[6] Gu Junshan, one of Xu's allegedly favorite officers, who was promoted during Xu's years in office, had already been under investigation for a wide-reaching corruption scandal involving the military's real estate assets.[5]

Xu's supporters, pleading for clemency, said that having terminal cancer was akin to having already received the "death penalty," citing the precedent of former Vice-Premier Huang Ju as a case where corruption charges should not be pressed against an official in ill-health.[5] The decision to investigate Xu was reportedly made on 15 March 2014, when Xu was taken from his hospital bed by armed policemen. His wife, daughter and former secretary were also reportedly taken into custody.[5]

At a Chinese New Year gala for retired military officials in 2014, Xu reportedly tried to speak to President Xi Jinping, who is also the Central Military Commission Chairman, several times, without success.[5]

Xu was expelled from the Communist Party of China on 30 June 2014.[7] State media described Xu's alleged crimes as abuse of power, accepting bribes directly or via family members in exchange for promotions, and advancing the interests of those close to him through the powers vested in his office.[8]

Xu's downfall was unexpected because corruption investigations involving mid-tier military officers are rarely publicly announced in the People's Republic of China, let alone that of such a high-ranking general.[9]

Some analysts believe that Xu's downfall signaled a consolidation of military power directly under the hands of Xi Jinping and is of greater political significance than the corruption investigation surrounding Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee.[9] His downfall is presented by the Communist Party as part of a wider campaign by CPC General Secretary and Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping to "eradicate corruption" and "reform the military".[7] In October 2014, Xu confessed to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in the "war on corruption."[10]


  1. ^ "Xu Caihou". People's Daily. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "China completes military power transfer". USA Today. 19 September 2004. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Baijie, An (1 June 2014). "Top-level general expelled for graft". China Daily (China Daily Information Co). Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d 从平民到阶下囚:徐才厚曾收冷气机被吓到 (in Chinese). Duo Wei Times. 2 July 2014. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Ex-PLA top general Xu Caihou held in cash for rank probe". South China Morning Post. 19 March 2014. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Chan, Minnie (17 March 2014). "Corruption probe of PLA's Xu Caihou dropped because of terminal cancer". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "China's Communist Party expels former military chief Xu Caihou in graft probe". South China Morning Post. 30 June 2014. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  8. ^ 徐才厚被开除党籍 为他人晋升职务提供帮助- (in Chinese). Sohu News. 30 June 2014. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Wang, Ya (30 June 2014). 远超周案 徐才厚案通报背后的六大解读 (in Chinese). Duowei. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "China's biggest 'military tiger' Xu Caihou confesses to taking bribes", by Paul Armstrong and Steven Jiang, CNN, 29 October 2014

Military offices
Preceded by
Yu Yongbo
Director-general of General Political Department
Succeeded by
Li Jinai
Preceded by
Du Tiehuan
Political commissar of Jinan Military Region
Succeeded by
Zhang Wentai