• Reuters

China Appoints Dong Jun as New Defense Minister – State Media

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
China’s national flag

BEIJING (Reuters) – China named Dong Jun as its new defense 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 neighbors.

The role of China’s defense 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 defense 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 defense 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 defense minister and state councilor in October.

A crucial element of China’s defense 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.