China has appointed Dong Jun as the new defense minister, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday, citing a decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (the Chinese parliament).
The position has remained vacant since the dismissal of his predecessor, Li Changfu, last October, who made his last public appearance at the end of August. No reason was ever given for his ouster after only seven months in office. The Ministry of Defense has since refused to clearly define who leads the largest army in the world.
Born in 1961, Dong Jun was promoted to naval chief in August 2021. He was previously deputy in charge of the Chinese military's Southern Command, which includes the South China Sea as its area of operations, where territorial disputes pit Beijing against neighboring countries.
This promotion is a surprise. Analysts expect Liu Zhenli, the 59-year-old general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to become China's new defense minister. He spoke privately last week with his US counterpart, General Charles Brune Jr., during the first high-level call in more than a year between militaries from the two leading world powers.
Dong Jun's appointment from the Navy is “An indication that China considers the South China Sea a new priority area.”, Ratings on X (formerly Twitter) Political scientist Wen Tee Song is a regional expert at the Australian National University.
This appointment also comes two weeks before the presidential elections in Taiwan, which China considers one of its provinces, and after a ministerial reshuffle at the head of the Chinese army unit responsible for strategic missiles, especially nuclear ones.
In July, the authorities announced that they would provide this unit with new management, without explaining the change. Then media reports reported that there was a corruption investigation into his former boss, who had not appeared in public for weeks.
“Unapologetic pop culture trailblazer. Freelance troublemaker. Food guru. Alcohol fanatic. Gamer. Explorer. Thinker.”