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29 Dec, 2023 14:27

China reveals new defense minister

Admiral Dong Jun had served as commander of the country’s navy since 2021
China reveals new defense minister

The Chinese government has named the commander-in-chief of its naval forces as defense minister. The move comes after the previous holder of the role was fired in late October amid reports of his involvement in a corruption scandal.

On Friday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress – a permanent body of the country’s legislature – made a series of personnel decisions, including the appointment of Admiral Dong Jun as minister of national defense. The 62-year-old has steadily climbed through the ranks of the Chinese Navy for many years, becoming its chief in 2021.

Before assuming the helm of the navy, Dong had served as deputy commander of the Southern Theater Command, which is responsible for operations in the South China Sea, an arena rife with tensions between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as part of its sovereign territory.

Relations between China and the US have further soured this year after Washington approved foreign military sales to Taipei, and as numerous US officials, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, traveled to the island. Beijing has called the moves an encroachment on China’s sovereignty and an attempt to upset regional stability.

Dong’s appointment comes after Beijing sacked former defense chief Li Shangfu in late October without giving any public explanation for the dismissal. Before that, he had not been seen in public since August, fueling speculation in Western media. In September, however, Reuters reported, citing numerous sources, that Li was under investigation for alleged corruption during the procurement of military equipment.

Li was also placed on the US sanctions list in 2018 for his alleged role in the purchase of Russian equipment, which, according to the Financial Times, was a major reason for his inability to participate directly in talks with US defense officials. Unlike Li, Dong Jun is not known to be subject to such restrictions.

Meanwhile, despite tense Sino-US relations, US President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping agreed during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit last month to resume high-level military contacts between the two countries. As a result, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Brown held talks with his Chinese counterpart Liu Zhenli last week to discuss “a number of global and regional security issues,” according to the Pentagon.

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