Sparking speculation were the separate inspection trips made by two top generals last month to Shenyang, one of the country's seven military regions. General Guo Boxiong and Gen Xu Caihou are vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC), China's top military body, which is chaired by President Hu Jintao himself. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported the generals' visits. The pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po noted that it was rare that both CMC vice-chairmen should inspect the same military region within a month. It also noted that the PLA newspaper did not refer to Shenyang as a military region, or jun qu, but as a theater, or zhan (warfare) qu. Besides Shenyang, the other six military regions are headquartered in Beijing, Jinan, Nanjing, Chengdu, Lanzhou and Guangzhou, respectively. Each region covers a number of provinces, called military districts, and its formation is to handle threats coming from specific directions. For example, the Shenyang military region covers the north-eastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning, which border the Korean peninsula and Russia's Far East, and so the region deals with threats coming from those areas. It bore the full brunt of the Korean War in the 1950s. In times of war or in near-war situations, a military region can be upgraded to theater status and expanded to cover adjacent military regions. In such an event, the troops' combat capability is beefed up and the level of the military alert is also raised. Part of the civilian economy within the region can also be geared up to meet war purposes. The conversion of the Shenyang military region to a theatre indicates that China is taking the possible threat of conflict seriously. According to the PLA Daily, Gen Guo was accompanied by Maj-Gen Qi Jianguo, assistant to the chief of general staff of the PLA, and Maj-Gen Gu Junshan, deputy director of the General Logistics Department of the PLA.
Gen Xu was accompanied by navy commander Admiral Wu Shenli and inspected the North Sea fleet based in Dalian.