Saturday, February 24, 2024

What China’s new defense minister says about President Xi’s military purge

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This week, a dramatic shake-up and reshuffling of China’s military top brass escalated, with the ruling Communist Party dismissing senior officials and replacing its naval commander with defense minister, four months after his predecessor disappeared amid a major corruption crackdown. was appointed.

A year into his third term, Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in decades, is trying to rein in deep-rooted ties that threaten his ambitions to transform the People’s Liberation Army into a “world-class” fighting force. . A direct confrontation with the United States.

Friday’s promotion of Admiral Dong Jun, a 62-year-old former head of China’s navy, comes alongside the announcement that 12 generals and senior executives from state-run military enterprises have been removed from the country’s legislature and top political advisory body. It was conducted.

What happened to the confusion in the top echelons of the Chinese military?

The scale of this week’s personnel changes, announced at a meeting of Chinese Communist Party officials in Beijing, comes amid an ongoing military corruption probe that has targeted the Rocket Force, which is responsible for arms procurement and the country’s missile development, in recent months. It suggested that. nuclear weapons.

China has not said why former Defense Minister Li Shangfu was fired in October after he disappeared from public view for two months.

But U.S. officials say Li was likely embroiled in an investigation into bid-rigging and lax oversight during his five years as head of China’s military equipment development agency, which is tasked with improving military technology. A senior official who oversees the Rocket Force, which controls China’s nuclear arsenal, was also dismissed without notice in August.

Of the nine military officials expelled from the National People’s Congress on Friday, all appear to have direct or indirect ties to Mr. Li.

Some worked under Lee in the equipment development department from 2017 to 2022. Some were involved in the Rocket Force or the space program.

“Something significant must have happened to trigger this kind of purge,” said Lyle Morris, a senior fellow at the Asian Social Policy Institute, adding that there was a possibility of a major corruption scandal or information leak. I wrote on X (old Twitter) that it was expensive.

What does this mean for China’s military strategy?

Chinese military experts say the changes and Mr. Dong’s appointment are unlikely to significantly change China’s ambitious military modernization plans or approach to relations with the United States.

In China, the position of Minister of Defense is largely ceremonial and focuses primarily on military diplomacy and international engagement. High-level strategies and important decisions will instead be made by senior officials of the Central Military Commission, which is chaired by Mr. Xi.

Unlike his predecessor, Dong is not yet a member of the committee.

The unusual selection of naval officers comes as China sees it as essential to gaining military supremacy in the Indo-Pacific and asserting its sovereignty claims over the island democracy of Taiwan, which Beijing considers its own territory. It coincides with a long-term shift in favor of power.

Dong, who has spent his entire career in the Navy, has experience commanding the rapidly expanding fleet used by China to assert its claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea. He has also participated in joint naval exercises with Russia, which China views as an important partner in its efforts to dominate the region.

What about the US?

Military analysts expect Dong to serve as the new public face of the People’s Liberation Army and push for a resumption of the recent U.S.-China military dialogue agreed to during President Biden’s meeting with President Xi Jinping. It has said. November.

But the fundamentals of the relationship are unlikely to change significantly, and promotions within the navy suggest that China is increasingly eyeing the South China Sea as an arena for military competition with the United States and its allies, the Eurasian the group said in a research note.

Analysts warn that efforts to de-escalate tensions remain fragile and could easily be derailed if China’s aggressive military tactics spark new hostilities.

Achieving a reset in relations comes amid a tense standoff between Beijing and the Philippines over disputed islands, an escalation of saber fire around Taiwan, and frequent attacks by Chinese ships and fighter jets targeting the United States and its allies. Complicated by dangerous interception.

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