Li Shangfu Officially Elected as China’s New Defense Minister

China officially introduced their new Defense Minister, Li Shangfu, on Sunday, March 12th, 2023. His appointment was made by members of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC). They voted on Sunday during the fifth plenary meeting of the first session of the 14th NPC. Besides him, there were several other people: Ding Xuexiang, He Lifeng, Zhang Guoqing and Liu Guozhong who were appointed as deputy prime ministers.

The election of Li Shangfu is certainly not without reason. Li is a veteran of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) modernization efforts. According to experts, Li’s history as a technocrat brought influence and became a consideration. He is an aerospace engineer working on China’s satellite program. This experience will help him play a key role in meeting President Xi Jinping’s interim targets for the PLA. This background is particularly relevant as the PLA aims to become a world-class military by 2049.

Many people questioned the reason for the appointment of Li Shanfu because before finally being appointed as Defense Minister, General Li had been sanctioned by the United States. In September 2018, the US State Department sanctioned China over its 2017 purchase of 10 Su-35 fighters and equipment related to the S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport. As director, Li is on the list of parties subject to US sanctions.

However, experts believe that Li Shangfu’s relationship with Russia was one of the possible reasons for his promotion. China has a special relationship with Russia in various fields, especially in the field of defense. It is Li’s reputation and experience that are considered to have won the trust of the President, Xi Jinping.

Read also: China-Belarus Strengthen Relationship for Asia-Pacific Stability

Li Shanfu had a lot of experience before he was finally selected. In 2016, Li was appointed deputy commander of the new PLA Strategic Support Force. This elite agency is tasked with accelerating the development of China’s space and cyber warfare capabilities. He was later appointed head of the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Chinese government’s defense arm directly headed by President Xi Jinping.

General Li took office at a time when the US is seeking to revive dialogue and military communications that have soured as Beijing angered US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2022 visit to Taiwan. Although General Li’s new position in the Chinese government is doubtful as it is seen as purely diplomatic and ceremonial, regional diplomats say Li’s career background should be taken seriously and Li’s appointment as a new minister will be an attention.

Source: Liputan6,


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