The Ministry of Defense of the People's Republic of China was headed by 65-year-old General Li Shangfu. He was selected by unanimous decision and succeeded the retiring Wei Fenghe. In 2018, Li was included in the US sanctions list for being involved in a deal for China to buy Su-35 military aircraft and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia's Rosoboronexport. At that time, he served as director of the equipment development department at the highest military commission in charge of Chinese defense technology.
According to the US State Department, the sanctions were imposed in order to “bill Russia in response to its interference in the United States electoral process, its unacceptable behavior in eastern Ukraine, and other malicious actions.” Sanctions imposed on Li include a ban on foreign exchange transactions under US jurisdiction, a ban on transactions with the country's financial system, and a blockade of all his property in the United States. Also, he cannot get an American visa.
Previously, Li also led the launch of China's first lunar probe at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. During his tenure, the PRC launched its first anti-satellite missile. As Bloomberg emphasizes , Li's appointment as defense minister speaks of Beijing's growing interest in aerospace technology. It could also turn into a "potentially awkward meeting" if he has to see US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.