China has announced General Li Shangfu – a US-sanctioned official – as its new national defense minister and state adviser – a move that could trigger another downward spiral in strained relations between the two superpowers. . The nomination was among a list of names put forward to the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Sunday, Bloomberg reported. Li will replace outgoing defense chief Wei Fenghe, whose retirement has come as no surprise since he quit the central military commission at the Communist Party congress in October.
Who is General Li Shangfu? 5 points
1) Li joined China’s military commission at the October congress, becoming the first soldier in the army’s “Strategic Support Force” to do so. The particular branch was created in 2015, with the aim of restructuring the directorate to focus on space, cyber, political and electronic warfare.
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2) He was first under US scrutiny in 2018 for allegedly helping transfer Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missile system equipment from Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport to China. At the time, he oversaw China’s defense technology as director of the equipment development department of the highest military commission.
3) Li and his department and Russian entities have been subjected to a wide range of sanctions by the US State Department. The senior Chinese official faced a ban on transactions with the US financial system, a ban on foreign exchange transactions under US jurisdiction, a blocking of all goods in the US and a visa ban.
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4) With his appointment, China envisions critical advances in aerospace defense technology, according to the Bloomberg report. A graduate of China’s National University of Defense Technology, Li played a vital role in supervising the launch of China’s first lunar probe while at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. While there, China also successfully launched its first anti-satellite missile.
5) Li also worked as chief of staff and then deputy director at the General Armaments Department between 2013 and 2015, when Zhang Youxia, the current vice president of China’s highest military corps, was its director. Zhang is also a family friend of President Xi Jinping. He succeeded Zhang and also later appeared as the head of the equipment development department at a civil-military fusion forum in 2017. This was after serving in the “Strategic Support Force” of the Army as its first Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander in 2016.
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