China appoints US-sanctioned general as new defence minister

Hong Kong, March 13 (IANS) China on Sunday appointed a US-sanctioned general as its new defence minister, the media reported.
The country’s rubber-stamp legislature unanimously confirmed the appointment of General Li Shangfu, a veteran of the People’s Liberation Army’s modernisation drive, CNN reported.
Experts said the appointment would be closely watched by Washington given Li’s background, even though the post is viewed as largely diplomatic and ceremonial, CNN reported.
In 2018, the administration of former US President Donald Trump sanctioned Li and China’s Equipment Development Department – which he was in charge of at the time – for purchasing Russian weapons, including a Su-35 combat aircraft and a S-400 surface-to-air missile system, CNN reported.
His appointment was one of a series confirmed by China’s National People’s Congress during its Sunday sitting. Other senior appointments included four new vice premiers – Ding Xuexiang, He Lifeng, Zhang Guoqing, and Liu Guozhong.
Following their nomination by the new premier, all four will serve as vice premiers on the State Council, the body responsible for reviving China’s economy after three years of strict zero-Covid restrictions.
The appointment of Li Shangfu as defence minister comes at a time of increasingly strained relations between Beijing and Washington.
Defense experts said Li’s history as a technocrat and aerospace engineer who worked in China’s satellite programme would play a key part in his new role, CNN reported.

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