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China Appoints Former Navy Chief Dong Jun as New Defense Minister

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Dec 30, 2023

China has appointed former navy chief Admiral Dong Jun as the new defense minister, state media reported on December 29, 2023. He replaces General Li Shangfu, who mysteriously disappeared from public view in August 2022.

Background

Admiral Dong Jun has a background in naval operations, especially in the South China Sea. He previously served as commander of the PLA Navy and oversaw China’s first aircraft carrier group.

His appointment comes at a time when China aims to modernize its military into a world-class force by 2027. This modernization drive focuses on naval capabilities as China seeks to assert its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas.

General Li Shangfu’s disappearance in August 2022 was unexpected. He attended a meeting with General Xu Qiliang on August 22 but canceled a scheduled appearance the next day. No explanation was given by authorities on his absence.

There was speculation that Li was caught up in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign which has snared dozens of senior military figures over the past decade. However, no charges were ever announced against Li.

Dong’s Appointment Welcomed

Analysts have welcomed Dong Jun’s appointment, citing his naval experience.

Kokita Kiyoka, a Chinese military expert at Tokyo University, said:

“As supreme leader Xi Jinping continues his military modernization drive, Admiral Dong’s operational knowledge, especially relating to naval assets and the crucial South China Sea region, will be invaluable.”

Rajat Kumar, a defense specialist at the National University of Singapore, added:

“The navy is taking center stage in China’s military apparatus. Dong’s leadership background here is a major advantage as he steps into the defense minister role.”

Focus on Maritime Capabilities

A key priority in Dong’s new position will be overseeing the expansion of China’s naval strengths. Modernization plans for 2027 include:

  • Increasing the number of aircraft carriers from 2 to 6
  • Growing the submarine fleet from roughly 70 to 110
  • Expanding the number of larger replenishment ships that allow the Chinese navy to mount longer missions away from homeports

Dong will also direct strategies in the South China Sea where China has constructed military outposts on man-made islands. The bases located on the Paracel and Spratly island chains allow Chinese forces to project power across the contested waterway.

Under Dong’s charge, the PLA can be expected to maintain regular air and sea patrols through the region as a show of military might.

Tensions with the US

Admiral Dong takes charge against the backdrop of inflamed tensions between China and the US over Taiwan.

Beijing views the self-governing island as its sovereign territory and has ramped up military drills and rhetoric aimed at intimidating Taipei.

The US frequently sends warships through the Taiwan Strait and continues arming the Taiwanese military with advanced weaponry.

As defense minister, Dong will be responsible for formulating strategies aimed at unifying Taiwan with the Chinese mainland – by force if deemed necessary.

Commenting on the heated situation with Washington, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said:

“We have the resolve to deal with interference by external forces and separatist actions. Our position has been consistent and clear.”

She added that China seeks “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan but that it reserves “other options”.

What Next Under Dong?

Analysts do not expect any radical departure in Chinese military policy under Dong Jun’s leadership. They predict continuity rather than disruption.

Yogesh Varma, a professor at Beijing Normal University, said:

“Dong will firmly adhere to the party line like his predecessors. We’ll see persistence rather than transformation regarding things like the navy buildup, pressure on Taiwan, and securing China’s periphery.”

With Admiral Dong’s naval background, particular emphasis may be placed on modernizing warships and weapons systems associated with maritime operations. These include aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines, anti-ship missiles and air defense systems.

Table: China’s Naval Development Goals for 2027

Hardware Current 2027 Target
Aircraft Carriers 2 6+
Destroyers 32 42+
Frigates 51 60+
Attack Submarines 57 70+
Ballistic Missile Subs 6 12

On the diplomatic front regarding Taiwan, some overtures of reconciliation could occur. But Dong is still expected to oversee demonstrative military maneuvers near the island.

The disappearance of former defense minister Li Shangfu remains an unsolved mystery. Whether Dong addresses Li’s unknown fate as part of a wider anti-graft drive is yet to be seen.

So in summary, Dong Jun faces a pressing in-tray centered on naval development goals, the Taiwan flashpoint and strategic rivalry with America. How ably he delivers on these core defense policies will define his tenure.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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