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Beijing [China], October 8 (ANI): Senior Chinese General Zhang Xudong who stepped down as head of Western Theatre Command (bordered with India) in June died aged 58.
Citing military sources, Minnie Chan, wrote in South China Morning Post (SCMP) that Zhang, who was replaced as head of the country's biggest military theatre, had been suffering from cancer and gastrointestinal problems.
He was responsible for security along China's border with India. He was replaced as head of the Western Theatre Command after just six months as part of a series of leadership changes.
His replacement, Xu Qiling, stepped down after just two months and is also said to be in poor health amid a spate of illnesses among commanders and troops posted in the region, reported SCMP.
Zhang had been suffering from cancer and problems with his gastrointestinal tract before his death on October 1, according to two military sources.
Zhang was promoted to full general in late December last year, replacing Zhao Zongqi as head of the country's largest theatre command, an area that includes Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as China's border with India in the Himalayas, said Minnie.
In June he stepped down without giving any reason and was replaced by General Xu Qiling, previously head of the Eastern Theatre Command.
"Zhang and Xu were rising stars in the military as President Xi Jinping seemed to think highly of them," said a military source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.
Zhang was given a role on the CMC's Strategic Planning Committee, but it is not known what Xu's current role is, reported SCMP.
However, one military source said there were broader concerns for the health and well-being of commanders and troops in the Western Theatre Command, adding that Xu was also suffering from health problems.
"[Xu] also has some problems linked to his gastrointestinal tract," the source said. "That's why he left his post just two months after the appointment to the Western Theatre Command."
Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology institute in Beijing, said many senior officers and commanders on the front line were suffering from gastrointestinal disease and other health problems, wrote Minnie.
"Working conditions in the low-oxygen, low-temperature, high-altitude Western Theatre Command are tough, with coronary heart disease becoming a common problem among officers and soldiers," Zhou said.
The Western Theatre Command was established as part of a major military overhaul five years ago, which divided the country into five theatre commands as part of the drive to modernise the military and make it combat-ready, reported SCMP.
Troops from the Western Theatre Command were involved in a lengthy stand-off with the Indian military last year, including a deadly clash in the Galwan valley. (ANI)