China has appointed General Li Shangfu, a veteran of the People's Liberation Army's modernization drive, as its new defense minister. Li was unanimously confirmed during a session of China's rubber-stamp legislature on Sunday. The appointment is significant due to Li's background, as he was sanctioned by the Trump administration in 2018, along with China's Equipment Development Department, for purchasing Russian weapons. The post is largely seen as ceremonial, but experts say that Li's appointment will be closely watched by Washington.
Li's appointment is one of several senior appointments confirmed by China's National People's Congress during its Sunday sitting. Four new vice premiers were also appointed, who will serve on the State Council responsible for reviving China's economy. The appointment of Li Shangfu comes at a time of strained relations between China and the United States.
Defense experts say that Li's appointment is likely a reward for his work in modernizing China's military. In 2016, Li was named deputy commander of the PLA's Strategic Support Force, which is responsible for accelerating the development of China's space and cyber warfare capabilities. He was then appointed head of the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission, China's governing defense body, headed by the country's leader, Xi Jinping.
Li's background as a technocrat and aerospace engineer who worked in China's satellite program is seen as particularly relevant to his new role. Experts say that his experience in key areas of modernization will play a significant role in his new position, as the PLA aims to become a world-class military by 2049.
Some experts also suggest that Li's appointment indicates that he will be someone who will have to hold his own in front of an international audience. However, the defense minister post in China is largely ceremonial, and the appointment is not expected to have any immediate impact on US-China relations.
In conclusion, China's appointment of General Li Shangfu as its new defense minister has attracted attention due to his background, as he was sanctioned by the Trump administration in 2018. However, his appointment is largely ceremonial, and his experience in modernization and aerospace engineering is seen as the key to his new role. The appointment is not expected to have any immediate impact on US-China relations.