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Zhang was born in Xiaoyi, Shanxi Province. His former posts include vice director of military training department of PLA General Staff Department, director of teaching & research office of campaign of PLA National Defense University, provost of PLA National Defense University and director of battle department of PLA General Staff Department. In December 2004, he was elevated to chief of staff assistant of General Staff Department, and was promoted to vice chief of staff in December 2006. In 2007, he was appointed as commander of Guangzhou Military Region. In December 2009, he was appointed as the first Deputy Chief of the General Staff, succeeding Ge Zhenfeng.
He attained the rank of lieutenant general in July 2006, and the rank of general in July 2010.
He is a member of 17th Central Committee of Communist Party of China.
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