Profile of a Joint Staff Officer in the PLA’s Northern Theater Command

PLA Theater Commands.

PLA Theater Commands.

“No war is conducted in full accordance with the operational plan, and no war is conducted in full non-compliance with the operational plan.’  In Zeng Xing’s view, every exercise is a rehearsal of actual combat, and the examination paper is in the future battlefield, and he is standing on the track preparing for the war and running towards the goal of winning the war.”

Since joint theater commands replaced the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army-dominated military regions in 2015, the new structures have experienced problems with officers lacking joint experience.  To address this ongoing issue, the PLA emphasizes education and realism in training.  In an article from its official newspaper, the PLA Daily describes a “model” officer, shedding light on aspects of the theater commands and their associated staff officers.  The profiled officer is Zeng Xing, a division chief from the Joint Staff Department of the Northern Theater Command. Many PLA articles, such as this one, omit officer rank.  According to the article, Zeng has been in the Army for 19 years and an operational staff officer for 15 of those years. 

In 2019, President Xi Jinping recognized Zeng as a model officer.  The article indicates that Zeng, like many Theater Command officers holding joint positions, must learn joint operations skills on the job and through self-education, including talking to officers in other services and arms.  While on the staff of the Northern Command, Zeng studies informationized warfare theory, joint operations, joint command, and the pilot joint operations command system on his own.  He also studies foreign military operations and joint command regulations to improve his skills and knowledge.

The article particularly highlights a recent command post exercise, during which Zeng was responsible for assessing the battlefield situation and formulating the operational plan.  It noted that Zeng and his staff worked to collect, analyze, and process information, develop the operational plan, and decide on operational methods (operational art and tactics).  Following that Zeng and his staff used a simulation to preview the operational plan and combat actions to inform the commander’s decision-making in the wargame.  As the PLA views it, this model of staff officer education, including common, contemporary doctrine-based education, self-study, and exercise simulations, will bridge the joint experience gap in China’s theater commands.


“北部战区联合参谋部某处处长曾星:向着打胜仗目标全力奔跑 (Zeng Xing, Department Chief in the Joint Staff Department of the Northern Theater Command: Running towards the goal of winning the war),” PLA Daily (official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army), 13 July, 2022.

The joint operations staff is a bridge connecting commanders and combat troops. In the face of complex battlefield situations, they must always keep a clear head and clear thinking. During a command post exercise, Zeng Xing was responsible for planning and formulating the operational plan. On the basis of fully understanding the determination and intention of the commander, he led his comrades in arms to work overtime, skillfully collect, analyze and process information, derive the battle plan and preview the battle methods through the simulation system, and provide reference for the commander’s decision-making.

Image Information:

Image: PLA Theater Commands
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0