Gen Li Shangfu is China’s new defence minister. Why US sanctioned him? 5 facts | World News - Hindustan Times
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Gen Li Shangfu is China’s new defence minister. Why US sanctioned him? 5 facts

By | Edited by Aniruddha Dhar
Mar 12, 2023 03:51 PM IST

With general Li Shangfu's appointment, China is eyeing critical advancement in aerospace defence technology. He has overlooked several critical projects for China and is the first soldier from the army’s ‘Strategic Support Force’ to join the country's central military commission.

China has announced general Li Shangfu - an official sanctioned by the United States - to be its new minister of national defence and state councillor - a move that has the potential to trigger a further downward spiral in the two superpowers’ strained relationship. The appointment was part of a list of names nominated at the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Sunday, Bloomberg reported. Li will replace the outgoing defence chief Wei Fenghe, whose retirement is not a surprise since he stepped down from the central military commission at the Communist Party’s congress in October.

Zhang Youxia (C), vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China, swears an oath with Central Military Commission members He Weidong and Li Shangfu after they were elected during the fourth plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on Saturday.(via REUTERS)
Zhang Youxia (C), vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China, swears an oath with Central Military Commission members He Weidong and Li Shangfu after they were elected during the fourth plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on Saturday.(via REUTERS)

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Who is general Li Shangfu? 5 points

1) Li joined China's military commission at the October congress, becoming the first soldier from the army’s ‘Strategic Support Force’ to do so. The particular branch was created in 2015, in a bid to restructure management to focus on space, cyber, political and electronic warfare.

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2) He was first under the US’s scanner in 2018 for allegedly aiding in the transfer of Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 missile system equipment from Russian arms seller Rosoboronexport to China. Back then, he was overseeing Chinese defence technology as the director of the Equipment Development Department at the top military commission.

3) Li and his department and Russian entities were subjected to a wide range of sanctions by the US State Department. The top Chinese official faced a prohibition on transactions with the US financial system, ban on foreign exchange transactions under US jurisdiction, blocking of all property within the US, and a visa ban.

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4) With his appointment, China is eyeing critical advancement in aerospace defence technology, the Bloomberg report said. A graduate of China’s National University of Defence Technology, Li played a critical role in overseeing the launch of China’s first lunar probe while he was at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. During his time there, China also successfully launched its first anti-satellite missile.

5) Li also worked as the chief of staff and then deputy director at the General Armaments Department between 2013 and 2015, when Zhang Youxia, the current vice-chair of China’s top military body, was its director. Zhang is also a family friend of president Xi Jinping. He took over from Zhang and later also appeared as the head of the Equipment Development Department at a civil-military fusion forum in 2017. This was after he served in the army's ‘Strategic Support Force’ as its inaugural chief of staff and deputy commander in 2016.

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    Trainee Content Producer at HT Digital. I read about feminism, late modern history, and globalisation of Korean music.

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