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New leader takes helm of PLA Navy

By Zhao Lei (Chinadaily.com.cn)    09:45, January 21, 2017
New leader takes helm of PLA Navy
(file photo)

The People's Liberation Army Navy has a new commander, 60-year-old Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, according to the Navy.

Shen, in the capacity of the PLA Navy commander, had a video chat on Friday morning with officers and sailors of the 25th escort fleet to the Gulf of Aden, according to a Navy news release.

That means he has replaced Admiral Wu Shengli, 71, to take charge of the largest navy in Asia. Although the Navy did not disclose when the transition took place, observers believe it occurred in the past week.

A senior researcher with the PLA Navy who asked not to be named said Shen was chosen because he has rich experience gained through posts in front-line combat units, institutes and a major fleet's commanding body.

"He has theoretical and practical knowledge and front-line commanding experience, and he is just 60. These make him a suitable choice," the senior researcher said.

"However, Shen is facing many challenges, since the Navy now has heavier responsibilities in safeguarding the country's maritime interests and dealing with threats and interventions," he added.

The researcher said he expects the new commander to continue to improve the Navy's strategies, tactics and weapons and to keep honing its joint operation capabilities.

Admiral Wu, Shen's predecessor, was captain of several frigates and destroyers and gradually moved up through the Navy's ranks.

Wu was commander of the South Sea Fleet before taking the job of deputy chief of general staff in 2004. In April 2006, he was named commander of the PLA Navy.

He is the second-longest-serving commander of the PLA Navy, exceeded only by Xiao Jinguang, who was the Navy's chief from 1950 to 1980.

In Wu's tenure, the Navy went through a massive expansion in terms of armaments, capabilities and operational scope.

When he took over the Navy in 2004, most of its ships and submarines were old and incapable of matching their US or Japanese counterparts, while most of the Navy's exercises were conducted in China's coastal waters.

In the past 10 years, the Navy took delivery of about 100 advanced ships and submarines as well as a large number of new aircraft.

It commissioned around 20 new ships in 2015 as well as last year and is believed to have deployed several new-generation nuclear submarines during this period.

The Navy now has a carrier battle group, which just completed a long-distance, live-fire drill in the Western Pacific Ocean and South China Sea.

The Navy's aviation force has carried out several long-range, combat-ready drills.

Moreover, the Navy has gained extensive experience of large, sophisticated operations through its active participation in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and multinational naval exercises in the past several years.

The last time Wu appeared in media reports as the PLA Navy's commander was on December 28 when he attended a symposium that marked the eighth anniversary of the Navy's escort mission in the Gulf of Aden.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

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