Tuesday, March 5, 2024

China appoints General Dongjun as defense minister

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China on Friday hired a naval commander with experience in the South China Sea to fill a months-long vacancy created by the unexplained disappearance of a former minister believed to have fallen under investigation into possible corruption and other wrongdoing. appointed as minister.

According to Xinhua news agency, the appointment of the commander, Admiral Dong Jun, as defense minister was finalized by Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping after formal approval by lawmakers. There was speculation earlier this week that Admiral Dong might be named to the post after another admiral took over as head of China’s navy.

Admiral Dong’s promotion could calm the uncertainty that has pervaded China’s military leadership since the disappearance and dismissal of former defense minister Gen. Li Shangfu and the Rocket Force’s top two commanders. Chinese nuclear missile.

General Lee had not been seen in public for about two months before he was officially removed as minister at the end of October. The Chinese government has not yet explained his dismissal, but many experts believe he was likely drawn into an investigation into bribery and other wrongdoing that also resulted in the removal of Rocket Force commanders. .

The defense minister is not one of the most powerful positions in China’s military hierarchy, which is controlled by the Communist Party. Instead, he serves as the People’s Liberation Army’s chief external liaison officer, meeting with visiting military delegations and expressing China’s views at forums such as the annual Shangri-La Dialogue and Defense Forum in Singapore.

Admiral Dong, who is in his early 60s, is not a member of the Central Military Commission, the party council overseen by Mr. Xi, who controls the People’s Liberation Army. However, there is a possibility that he will be promoted to the committee at a subsequent party leadership meeting.

“The Minister of Defense in the Chinese system of government is not a decision maker or commander of troops or resources,” said Drew Thompson, a visiting senior fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and former defense minister. As a Department of Defense employee dealing with the Chinese military.

“That makes the defense minister an unsuitable interlocutor for his American counterpart,” Thompson said. “But the defense minister is the main channel for engagement with Xi Jinping’s Central Military Commission, where decisions are made.”

One of Admiral Dong’s most important and difficult tasks may be handling negotiations with the US military. China and the United States are at a standstill over issues such as Taiwan and the South China Sea, and the Pentagon has accused People’s Liberation Army aircraft of recklessly buzzing American military aircraft in international skies off the coast of China.

At their November summit, Mr. Xi and President Biden agreed to resume dialogue between their militaries, but Beijing suspended it last year in protest of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. was. They claim it as their own territory. The two countries held military talks earlier this month. China insists that the U.S. defense secretary consult with the defense minister, but the Pentagon wants China to be represented by a more senior commander.

Admiral Dong may claim to have some experience with one of the most volatile issues for the Chinese military. He previously served as deputy commander of China’s Southern Command, which has jurisdiction over the South China Sea, where Beijing is embroiled in long-running territorial disputes with Southeast Asian nations that also claim islands and territorial waters. Admiral Dong is China’s first defense minister with a naval background.

But Mr. Thompson said Admiral Dong appeared to have risen through the ranks as a bureaucratic overseer rather than a front-line officer.

“That’s good and bad because it means he knows how to make his system work,” Thompson said. “But he’s more of a politician than a soldier.”

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