China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) appointed General Li Shangfu, who has been sanctioned by the US for dealings with Russia, as the country’s new defense minister on Sunday.
In 2018, the US blacklisted Li as the then-head of the Equipment Development Department for “significant transactions” involving the transfer of Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 air defense systems-related materiel from Russia to China.
Li was born in 1958 in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern Sichuan province. After graduating from a military university, he spent more than three decades at the Xichang spaceport, working first as a technician, and eventually becoming the launch site’s director.
In the 2000s, he oversaw the launch of Chang’e 2, the country’s first lunar probe, and led China’s first anti-satellite missile test.
In 2016, Li was appointed deputy commander of the recently established People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Command, a branch tasked with space and cyber warfare. Between 2017 and 2022, the general led China’s manned space program. During his tenure, Beijing ramped up activity in space, completing 55 successful orbital launches in 2021, surpassing the US and Russia.