Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong appointed PLAN commander

By Cao Siqi and Guo Yuandan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/22 0:08:39

China has appointed Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong, leader of China's South Sea Fleet, as commander to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, attracting public attention to the country's navy development and military reform.

The 60-year-old on Friday extended Lunar New Year's greetings to the crews of two naval fleets on missions.

No.112 naval fleet has finished an escort mission that started in August 2016, and is currently on visits to other countries. No.568 naval fleet began its escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia on January 2.

Shen, who sent the address in a video, encouraged the sailors to strive to make greater contributions to the protection of national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Analyst said that Shen's appointment may be related to his effort in dealing with the crisis in disputes over the South China Sea.

According to China's Ministry of National Defense, Shen led three warships in exercises in Hawaii in 2014 before docking in San Diego, California, for a five-day official visit.

Upon his return in August that year, he was named deputy commander of the South Sea Fleet then four months later replaced Vice Admiral Jiang Weilie, then deputy chief of the PLA Navy, to become the fleet's commander.

Some foreign media have said the personnel change shows that the South China Sea is at the core of China's naval strategies. They claim that Shen being promoted to head the PLA Navy hints that the South Sea Fleet that Shen previously supervised will shoulder more responsibilities for safeguarding the country's sea territory.

A military researcher who requested anonymity told the Global Times that the South Sea Fleet does face a more challenging situation in the region, especially when the US meddling actions further complicate the situation. But as China has rebuilt negotiations with other island claimants, outsiders' interference in the region will diminish.

The development of the PLA Navy is high on the agenda of Chinese military, with the country's first domestically built aircraft carrier set to be launched in 2017, said Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute.

The strength of the Chinese navy has increased at a fast pace over the past several years. China's military spending has increased slowly - considering inflation before 2005, military budgets actually decreased in some years.

As the country got wealthier in the past few years, though, military spending was increased, said Zhang, adding that China will invest more money in national defense in the coming decade to build warships, battle planes, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines armed with guided missiles.


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