|China appoints Dong Jun as new defence minister
|30th December 2023
|BEIJING - China named Dong Jun as its new defence minister on Friday to replace the last minister who disappeared four months ago.
The appointment by Chinese lawmakers comes as President Xi Jinping upgrades the military as part of his push to make China a dominant world power, a goal that has alarmed many neighbours.
The role of China’s defence minister is to be the public face of the People’s Liberation Army in its engagement with the media and with other militaries.
Unlike other countries, the ministry has little say in defence policy or military management, areas that fall under the purview of Central Military Commission, an elite group led by Xi.
Dong, 62, was most recently the People’s Liberation Army Navy chief. He replaces Li Shangfu, who took up the defence minister job in March but had not been seen in public since Aug. 25.
Reuters cited sources to report that Li was under investigation for corruption related to equipment procurement and development.
Beijing has not explained Li’s disappearance but stripped him of his title as defence minister and state councillor in October.
A crucial element of China’s defence minister job is to engage with the United States military to lower the risk of conflict over Taiwan and the South China Sea, two flashpoints that have seen increasing brushes in recent years.
Yet during his brief tenure as minister, Li did not meet his U.S. counterpart - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The ministry explained that Washington would have to first remove the sanctions it placed on Li on 2018 over his role in purchasing Russian aircraft and equipment.
Dong would face no such constraint, as he is not known to be under U.S. sanctions.
When President Joe Biden and Xi met in San Francisco last month, both leaders agreed to resume senior military talks that were suspended following then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to self-ruled Taiwan in August 2022.
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