PLAN’s Commander Admiral Wu Shengli has been replaced by Admiral Shen Jinlong
 
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Changes at the Top

PLAN’s Commander Admiral Wu Shengli has been replaced by Admiral Shen Jinlong

Prasun K. Sengupta
 

Shen Jinlong and Adm. Wu Shengli A new leader has taken the helm of the world’s second largest navy. Born in 1956, Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong replaced Admiral Wu Shengli as People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Commander on 17 January 2017. On the morning of January 20, Shen, 60, offered Lunar New Year greetings to sailors on patrol with the 25th Escort Fleet in the Gulf of Aden via video-teleconference. Prior to this, Shen was commanding the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet.

Earlier, he was commander of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla under the North Sea Fleet and then commander of the Navy’s Lyushun Logistic Support Base. In 2010, he was appointed president of the Dalian Naval Academy and promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.

In 2011, he became president of the Naval Command College in Nanjing. In 2014, Shen led three warships to take part in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise in Hawaii. He was named Deputy Commander of the South Sea Fleet as soon as he returned to China in August that year. In December 2014, he replaced Vice Admiral Jiang Weilie, who was named deputy chief of the PLA Navy, to become the fleet’s commander. He is a graduate of the Qingdao Submarine Academy and had also commanded the 1st Submarine Base. Admiral Sun Jianguo, long viewed as Wu’s natural successor as PLAN Commander by many, had represented China at the 2015 and 2016 Shangri-La Dialogues. Sun retired by the end of February 2017.

Sun’s retirement opened up possibilities for a set of Vice Admirals considered by foreign observers to be potential candidates to succeed Wu, namely Tian Zhong, Liu Yi, Ding Yi, Jiang Weilie, Yuan Yubai, Su Zhiqian — and, most importantly, Shen Jinlong. As part of the command reshuffles, Yuan Yubai, previously commander of the North Sea Fleet and a nuclear submariner, is now Commander of the PLA’s Southern Theatre, thus becoming the first naval officer to assume command of a land-based command; Wei Gang, formerly deputy director of the PLAN’s Armament Department, is now Commander of the East Sea Fleet; former East Sea Fleet commander Su Zhiqian is the PLAN’s Deputy Commander; and Zhang Wendan, previously the deputy chief of staff of the Southern Theatre Command, is now Commander of the North Sea Fleet.

Admiral Wu Shengli, 71-year old, retired from a 41-year career culminating in nearly 11 years as Commander of PLAN, making him the second-longest-serving PLAN naval commander in history.

The longest-serving was Xiao Jinguang, who led the PLAN, albeit with some political interruption, during particularly difficult three decades, from 1950 till 1979. The events of December 2016 offered a fitting capstone to Wu’s career. On December 8, Wu attended a high-profile ceremony commemorating the ‘70th Anniversary of China’s Recovery of the Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spratly) Islands’ in the South China Sea, having previously inspected some of China’s increasingly fortified installations there.


 
 
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