Geopolitica

Not just Taiwan: what lies behind the appointment of the new Chinese Defense Minister

The decision has been made.
China has officially appointed Dong Jun, former naval commander-in-chief, as its new defense minister, two months after Li Shangfu was mysteriously removed from the same post.
General Dong, 62, former commander of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, will take on the new role following a decision taken by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
Throughout his career he served in all major naval divisions of the PLA before becoming the Navy's top commander in 2021.
He served in the North Sea Fleet, a division that has repeatedly carried out joint exercises with the Russian navy, in the East Sea Fleet, responsible for dealing with potential conflicts with Japan, and at the Southern Command Theatre, which supervises the South China Sea, where the Taiwanese dossier stands out.
Dong led China's joint naval military maneuvers with Russia in 2016, when he was vice chief of naval staff, and encore during exercises with Pakistan in 2020, when he was deputy commander of the Southern Theater Command.
The new Chinese minister The fact that Xi Jinping has opted for a Navy commander underlines the importance attributed by the Chinese president to this specific military sector.
The same one that in recent years has played an important role in allowing the PLA both to expand its diplomatic reach and to project its power further beyond regional borders.
Moreover, tensions between Beijing and Washington have increased considerably in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait where there is always the risk that misunderstandings or incidents could trigger a conflict between the two superpowers.
In any case, Dong's appointment came just days after the Chinese government tapped Hu Zhongming, a submarine expert, as the Navy's new commander.
As defense minister, Dong Jun will play a crucial role as the public face of the PLA, having to engage with the media and other armed forces.
Last but not least, the naval experience of the new minister can be read in light of Chinese maritime claims and following the strengthening of the Navy.
Recall that the Chinese Navy has improved its capabilities by incorporating three aircraft carriers, numerous destroyers, nuclear-powered submarines and other state-of-the-art ships into its fleet.
Eyes on Taiwan China is closely monitoring Taiwan.
Beijing's armed forces are "well aware" of all the Taiwanese army's moves and will do what is necessary to safeguard the nation's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said yesterday.
Meanwhile, in Taipei, an accident occurred in recent weeks which cost the lives of three Navy officers.
Last December 21, during an exercise, three soldiers were swallowed by the waves while they were on a submarine operating near the city of Kaohsiung.
The accident occurred aboard the Hai Hu submarine, also known as Sea Tiger, a of the only two submarines in the Taiwanese Navy.
The vessel was engaged in a training mission that was expected to end in waters near southeastern Taiwan on December 29.
According to what was reconstructed, the Hai Hu crew had detected "anomalous sounds" coming from the rear of the vehicle, when it was immersed in the ocean.
The noises came from a life buoy.
For reasons the Navy is still investigating, the wooden cover of the submarine's compartment slipped off, leaving the buoy floating outside the craft.
The captain then elected to bring the submarine to the surface to allow four crew members to go to the deck and retrieve the buoy.
To prevent them from falling into the sea, the first four members were lowered wearing life jackets and secured to the deck with a safety harness.
However, a violent rogue wave dragged three of them into the sea.
The fourth soldier would have survived because his harness would have withstood the impact.
In view of a possible clash with China, some analysts are starting to question the state of the equipment used by the Taiwanese military, as well as their training.
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Author: A.W.M.

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