US’ sanction on China’s new defense minister extra trouble for defense talks: expert
Published: Mar 12, 2023 07:20 PM Updated: Mar 12, 2023 07:14 PM
China-US Photo: GT

China-US Photo: GT

Western media hyped on Sunday that General Li Shangfu, who has been endorsed by the national legislature as China’s new defense minister, was once sanctioned by the US for purchasing Russian weapons for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with experts saying that the US’ sanction and the media hypes could cause extra trouble for communication between the two militaries at a time when military tensions are already high between the two countries.

The National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday endorsed secretary-general of the State Council and heads of 26 departments of the State Council at a plenary meeting of the first session of the 14th NPC, including Li as the minister of national defense, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Western media including CNN and Reuters quickly started to hype that when Li was in charge of China’s Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission, the administration of then US President Donald Trump sanctioned him and the department in 2018 for purchasing Russian weapons, including Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

The foreign media hypes come at a time when the military-to-military relations between China and the US are at a low point, with the US claiming China declined a US request for call between defense chiefs in February after the US shot down a Chinese civilian unmanned airship that accidentally entered US airspace, Reuters reported at the time.

The US sanction and the media hypes could add fuel to fire and lead to additional and unnecessary troubles that could have been avoided in defense communications between the two countries, analysts said, noting that this could lead to increased risks in misunderstanding and misjudgment by the two countries’ militaries.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Sunday that the US has created many problems but wants to shift the responsibilities to China.

The media hypes show that the US side does not seem to want to solve problems, only throwing mud at China’s new defense minister, said the Chinese scholar.

The US side should withdraw the so-called sanctions and make active and positive efforts to ease tensions and resume exchanges, analysts said.

When the US announced the so-called sanctions in 2018, Wu Qian, a spokesperson at China's Ministry of National Defense, responded in a statement that the Chinese military voiced its strong indignation and resolute opposition against the so-called sanctions by the US, as the military cooperation between China and Russia was normal and went in line with international law.

"We demand the US side to immediately correct its wrongdoing and withdraw the so-called sanctions. Otherwise, the US side must bear the consequences caused by this act," Wu said.

According to publicly available information, the new defense minister Li Shangfu is an aerospace expert who was a senior official of China's space project. 

He used to be the director of China's main satellite launch sites in Xichang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, and has played a major role in lunar exploration missions. Before becoming the head of the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission in 2017, he served as the vice commander of the PLA's Strategic Support Force after the force was founded in late 2015.