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China's PLA Navy Appoints its First Female Commanding Officer

PLA Navy
File image courtesy PLA Navy / state media

Published Apr 24, 2022 6:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

For the first time, China's navy has appointed a female officer as the commanding officer of one of its surface combatants.

In time for the PLA Navy's 73rd anniversary, state media announced that Wei Huixiao has been named the CO of the Shaoxing, a brand new Type 052D class destroyer. It is the first time that a woman will take command on the front lines of China's assertive maritime policy. 

The promotion has been a long time coming for Huixiao. The PLA Navy announced plans to train her for a future post as a commanding officer back in 2018, when she was serving as an "intern captain" aboard the destroyer Zhengzhou. At the time, the PLA Daily reported that she was just "one step away" from becoming the service's first female commanding officer.

Wei did not have a conventional start to her military career in the People's Liberation Army (Navy). She started out at Sun Yat-Sen University, where she completed a PhD in geosciences. She later went to work for a leading Chinese tech company, Huawei, before deciding to join the PLA Navy at the age of 34. She served as deputy chief navigator aboard China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and she became the first female "deputy captain" in the PLA Navy in 2016. 

"I'd like to go to the battlefield, even if I died there. No problem. I'd like to go," she told CGTN in 2019. 

Her command, Shaoxing, is the latest generation of Type 052D destroyers (Luyang III-class). The Type 052D is China's answer to the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer: it is a 7,500-tonne multirole surface combatant with flat panel AESA radars, 64 vertical launch missile cells, CIWS cannons and CODAG propulsion. 

Shaoxing has been reported as attached to the PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy.