China Appoints Dong Jun as New Defense Minister

China has named Dong Jun as its new defense minister, replacing Li Shangfu, who disappeared from public view four months ago. The appointment, made by Chinese lawmakers, with President Xi Jinping’s efforts to the military and elevate China’s position as a global power.

Dong Jun as New Defense Minister

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Dong Jun, 62, formerly the People’s Liberation Army Navy chief, brings a wealth of military experience to his new role.

He has served in various positions within the PLA, including the Northern Sea Fleet, Eastern Sea Fleet, and the Southern Command Theatre.

His appointment was finalized at a meeting of the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress.

The removal of Li Shangfu in October sparked speculation, as the government provided no official explanation for his dismissal.

Li, who took up the defense minister job in March, had not been seen in public since August 25. Sources indicate that Li is under investigation for corruption related to equipment procurement and development.

Dong Jun is not known to be under U.S. sanctions, facilitating smoother engagement with the United States military.

The defense minister in China is the public face of the People’s Liberation Army in media interactions and engagements with other militaries.

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However, unlike in other countries, the ministry has limited influence over defense policy and military management, as these areas fall under the purview of the Central Military Commission, led by President Xi Jinping.

The defense minister’s role is to engage with the United States military to mitigate conflict risks, particularly concerning Taiwan and the South China Sea.

During Li Shangfu’s tenure, strained relations with the U.S. hindered high-level military talks. Li did not meet his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and the ministry attributed this to U.S. sanctions imposed in 2018 over Li’s involvement in purchasing Russian aircraft and equipment.

There is an expectation of improved communication, as he is not subject to U.S. sanctions. This development is with the recent agreement between President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping to resume senior military talks, which were suspended after Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022.

China’s military posture under President Xi Jinping has concerns among neighboring countries. The importance of Taiwan and the contested South China Sea makes the role of the defense minister in navigating geopolitical challenges.

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Dong Jun’s diplomatic skills and military background will be useful in managing relationships. Reports suggest that similar overhauls have occurred in the Rocket Force, responsible for overseeing Beijing’s nuclear arsenal. These changes were reportedly prompted by allegations of corruption.

Dong Jun’s naval experience, including commanding the Northern Sea Fleet engaged in joint drills with the Russian Navy, positions him well to lead China’s defense efforts.

His previous roles in conflict zones, such as the Eastern Sea Fleet focusing on Japan-related conflicts and the Southern Command Theatre overseeing the South China Sea.

The resumption of senior military talks between the U.S. and China, as agreed upon by Presidents Biden and Xi, signals a thaw in relations.

The recent communication between General Charles CQ Brown, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Chinese counterpart General Liu Zhenli shows a willingness to address mutual concerns.

While Dong Jun’s appointment may facilitate smoother engagement, especially in resolving longstanding issues such as arms sales to Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

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