China has a new Minister of Defense

The Chinese National Assembly elected Senior General Dong Quan as Minister of National Defense, replacing his predecessor, Li Shangfu.

“The Standing Committee of the 14th National Assembly on December 29 decided to appoint Mr. Dong Quan as Minister of National Defense,” Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported. This decision took place two months after Lieutenant General Ly Thuong Phuc was dismissed from his position.

Mr. Dong Quan, 62 years old, studied at Dalian Naval Academy and served in the Chinese Navy since 1979. He served as deputy chief of staff of the North Sea Fleet and commander of Naval Unit 92269.

In 2013, Mr. Dong was appointed deputy commander of the East Sea Fleet and then became deputy chief of staff of the Chinese navy. He held the position of deputy commander of China‘s Southern Theater Command in January 2017, was appointed deputy commander of the Chinese Navy in March 2021, and became commander of the military service after 6 months.

The decision to appoint Mr. Dong as Minister of Defense took place in the context of China’s reform and modernization of the world’s largest military force.

Beijing has not announced the reason for Mr. Ly’s dismissal. The Equipment Development Department, where Mr. Ly used to be in charge, issued a notice saying they were investigating activities that violated discipline and regulations in equipment procurement and bidding and called on people to provide information. Information about “inappropriate” actions since October 2017.

An important element of the Chinese Defense Minister’s job is working with the US military to reduce the risk of conflict in the region, especially the Taiwan Strait issue.

Mr. Ly has not met US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during his 7-month term. China explained that the meeting could not take place because the US had not lifted sanctions against Mr. Ly, which were issued in 2018 related to China’s purchase of Russian aircraft and equipment. Unlike his predecessor, General Dong is not on the US sanctions list.

During a meeting in San Francisco in November, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to resume high-level talks in the field of security between the two countries. Beijing suspended this activity after the August 2022 visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the US House of Representatives.