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China picks ex-navy chief as new defense minister

by editor

China picked former navy chief Dong Jun as its new defense minister on Friday, roughly four months after the last occupant of the post disappeared.

Chinese state media reported the move Friday, citing a decision from the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress.

Dong Jun, who moves from heading up the People’s Liberation Army Navy, is a former vice commander of the Southern Theater Command, which patrols the disputed South China Sea — a key potential flashpoint between China, Taiwan and the West.

The appointment is the latest twist in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s purge of key posts in the country’s ultra-secretive political system.

China’s previous Defense Minister Li Shangfu went missing in August, as his ministry abruptly canceled a visit to Vietnam planned for September citing “health conditions.” Two months after his unexplained disappearance he was fired from his post without any further clarification of his whereabouts or a possible replacement.

China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang was also sacked in July — a month after going missing — and barely six months after becoming minister. China’s top diplomat and Politburo member Wang Yi replaced him in July, and Beijing erased any traces of Qin from the foreign ministry’s website within hours of the reshuffle.

On Friday, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress also announced that it had moved Minister of Civil Affairs Tang Dengjie, and replaced him with Lu Zhiyuan, according to Chinese state media. Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping was also removed in favor of Sun Yeli.

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