China appoints new Defense Minister, potentially impacting U.S. talks

Photo: Dong Jun, newly appointed Defense Minister of China ( © RBC-Ukraine (CA)

On December 29, China appointed naval veteran Dong Jun as its new Defense Minister. This decision could facilitate the resumption of high-level military talks with the United States, reports Bloomberg.

The appointment of Dong Jun ends weeks of speculation about who would take over the position after the unexplained dismissal in October of the former defense minister, Li Shangfu. Li Shangfu is subject to US sanctions.

Dong Jun is the first military officer to be appointed as China’s defense minister and is not yet a member of the Central Military Commission.

Previously, General Liu Zhenli, the chief of the Joint Staff Department under the Central Military Commission, was considered the leading candidate for the position.

Personnel changes in the Chinese military

This appointment comes amid a wave of personnel changes in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) this year. Two top officials were suddenly removed from the secretive Rocket Force in the summer, from which China’s defense ministers were traditionally selected.

This week, three top executives from China’s defense contractors, specializing in missile production, were excluded from the top consultative body of the Chinese Communist Party.

Nine military deputies, including former Air Force commander Ding Laihang, were also removed from the legislative body.

Explanation for the appointment

According to a research fellow at the Global China Center of the Atlantic Council, Dong Jun’s promotion signifies that Beijing has outlined the South China Sea as “a sign of China designating the South China Sea as a new priority area of geopolitical contestation between China and the US.”

Bloomberg notes that today’s appointment of the head of China’s Ministry of Defense will help smooth the situation regarding the resumption of high-level military talks between Beijing and Washington. These talks were put on hold after the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan last year.

According to a high-ranking US military official who spoke anonymously to journalists, these talks will resume in January.

Military talks between the U.S. and China

Recall that last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the U.S., where he met with his counterpart Joe Biden. One of the topics discussed between the leaders was the resumption of contacts at the military level. They agreed that such talks needed to be reinstated.

In November, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin noted that the U.S. was concerned about the lack of contacts at the top military level with China.

On December 21, the Pentagon announced that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. General Charles Brown held talks with General Dong Jun of the Chinese army. Such a dialogue between the countries took place for the first time in a year and a half.

Source: RBC Ukraine