A retired general in the People’s Liberation Army has been mysteriously and significantly demoted.
A retired general gets a demotion, and dodges jail
Just five years ago, Cai Yingting was promoted to the rank of general at the age of 59, making him China’s youngest serving general at the time.
But that was also the year when President Xi Jinping started a national campaign against corruption.
One major focus of the 2013 campaign was senior Communist Party officials with family connections outside China. These relationships were seen as potential conduits for funnelling money out of the country.
Several sources close to the military told the South China Morning Post that Cai’s daughter had married a Frenchman, and that he had failed to report the relationship through proper channels.
The military authorities “just learned about it [the marriage] after being tipped off by a whistle-blower,” one source said.
The marriage wasn’t the only cause for his demotion, say insiders. Cai was also closely associated with senior commanders who have been purged after high-profile corruption scandals in recent years.
Cai headed the Nanjing Military Region from 2012 to 2016 and was previously a secretary to Zhang Wannian, a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. The commission controls all branches of the military.
Zhang, who died in 2015, was a close aide to former president Jiang Zemin. Insiders say Jiang had arranged for two generals, Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, to take over all military staff affairs. That effectively limited the influence of Hu Jintao, the president who succeeded Jiang.
But the two generals later fell from grace when current President Xi Jinping took charge. Guo received a life sentence for corruption in 2016, while Xu died of cancer while in custody under investigation on similar charges.
Cai had publicly distanced himself from the two fallen commanders, saying Xu’s actions were on a par with the “top 10 treacherous court officials in ancient China.”
However, his pledges of loyalty failed to win Xi’s trust, according to a source who familiar with the matter.
In December, Xi announced new leaders to the five new theatre commands – North, South, East, West and Central, which replaced the former seven military commands – as part of his massive overhaul to modernize the military.
Insiders were surprised that Cai was not nominated as head of the overall theatre command. He was given a much less powerful position as head of the Academy of Military Science.
One of the sources said Cai’s demotion was actually a “safe landing” to let him have an “easy retirement.”
“Compared with other retired senior officials, Cai has lost political and social status, as well as official preferential treatment, but at least it’s a safe landing for him, with no need to spend the rest of his life in Qincheng Prison,” the source said.
Qincheng Prison, known as the “tiger cage,” houses many disgraced senior officials, including the former security chief Zhou Yongkang and former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai.
“Of course, as a former senior military leader who knows so many state secrets, Cai needs to live in a specific place in his rest of life,” the source added.
Although Cai hasn’t been officially charged with any crime, his movements, even in retirement, are likely to be monitored.