The new head of China’s defense department is General Li Shanfu, who has been under U.S. sanctions for the past five years due to interaction with Rosoboronexport, notes Bloomberg. The new defense minister is known to have extensive experience in the aerospace industry, which shows China’s desire to develop technology in this area, the author stresses.

The National People’s Congress unanimously appointed General Li Shanfu as Defense Minister of China. He succeeded Wei Fenghe, whose resignation had been expected since he left the Central Military Council last October, Bloomberg writes.

In 2018, when Li Shanfu was head of the equipment development department of the country’s top military commission overseeing defense technology, he fell into Washington’s crosshairs by violating U.S. sanctions. At the time, he allegedly helped transfer Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missile systems from Rosoboronexport to China. As a result, the State Department imposed extensive new sanctions against the Russian side, Li Shanfu himself and his agency.

Therefore his high-profile appointment is likely to create new difficulties in the already strained US-China relations: in February the US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon and last year was marked by escalation around Taiwan, the author recalls. The Pentagon stated that the defense ministries of the US and China had not spoken to each other since November.

The choice of the new defense minister also signals Beijing’s growing focus on aerospace technology: for years he worked at the Xichang Cosmodrome, where he supervised the launch of satellites, China’s first lunar probe and the first anti-satellite rocket.

“The military should conduct military-diplomatic work with an emphasis on service to the big picture of political diplomacy,” the publication quoted Li Shanfu as saying last week during a debate on the subject of government work.

At the same time, he said the military and civilian resources should be thoroughly integrated by bringing businesses and armed forces closer together, Bloomberg reported.

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