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China's Navy Gets a New Top Officer After Just Two Years

Hu Zhongming
Adm. Hu Zhongming (back row, center right) and his predecessor, Adm. Dong Jun (left) with Xi Jinping and other officers (PRC State Council handout)

Published Dec 26, 2023 9:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

China's growing navy has a new top commander, state media announced this week. In a ceremony attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Hu Zhongming was promoted to the rank of admiral and handed command of the world's largest naval force. 

Zhongming has rare experience as a commanding officer of both surface combatants and submarines, according to his biography. He served as the commander of a PLA Navy submarine base, commander of the Navy's Northern Theater, and as the PLA Navy's Chief of Staff.

Zhongming replaces Adm. Dong Jun, 62, who has resigned the post after a two-year term. Jun is still three years short of the PLA's retirement age, but his future is hidden behind the closed doors of the Chinese Communist Party. Photos provided by state media show that he was present at the promotion ceremony, a sign that he may still have a political future. More than a few Chinese officers have disappeared from their positions over the past year without fanfare. 

Taiwanese analyst Yang Wei speculates that Jun - a member of the CCP's powerful Central Committee - may have been tapped to join the CCP Central Military Commission. There is a vacancy: the seat of defense minister Li Shangfu, who abruptly disappeared in August and was officially fired two months later. Li's successor has not been named, and China - the world's fastest-growing military power - is technically without a minister of defense. 

Xi Jinping has been at pains to emphasize political loyalty in the armed forces this year. In July, he called on China's military to solve existing problems with "upholding the party's absolute leadership over the army." That control is personalized in Xi Jinping himself: at the same meeting, CPC Central Committee member He Weidong exhorted the PLA to achieve "deep understanding" of Xi's "historic achievements."

The new PLA Navy commander, Hu Zhongming, was one of seven officers promoted to top-ranking posts at the same ceremony. It was the fourth such event this year, reflecting relatively rapid turnover at the top of the PLA.