The PRC’s civilian-military relationship has always been a central concern among China watchers. Although the political leadership’s control over the military has not been challenged in the last two decades, several factors—a possibly ineffective civilian collective leadership, growing social tensions and public protests, and China’s great power aspirations amid a rapidly changing global environment—may all enhance the military’s influence and power in the years to come. The upcoming political succession in 2012 is expected to involve a large-scale turnover in both the civilian and military leadership. Based on in-depth analysis of the PRC’s 57 currently highest-ranking military officers, this essay aims to address the following important questions: Who are the most likely candidates to become the military’s top leadership at the 18th Party Congress? What are the group characteristics of these rising stars in the Chinese military? What can an analysis of the professional backgrounds and political networks of China’s top officers reveal about the new dynamics between civilian and military elites and the possible challenges that lie ahead?