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Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe is leading China’s delegation at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

As tensions rise, China’s delegates are likely to keep a low profile at the Shangri-La Dialogue

  • Defence chief General Wei Fenghe is leading group of active senior military officers, retired officials and diplomats at the regional security summit
  • He will make a keynote address, but active PLA officers will not make formal speeches or join plenary sessions as they have in previous years
China has sent a high-ranking delegation to the Shangri-La Dialogue – a key security summit in Singapore this weekend – but they are likely to keep a low profile at a time of growing tensions in the region.

Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe is leading the delegation, which numbers over 50 and includes about a dozen active senior military officers focused on international relations, as well as retired senior officials and diplomats.

Among them is Cui Tiankai, who was China’s ambassador to the United States from 2013 to 2021. Top military brass include Lieutenant General Zhang Zhenzhong, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department in the Central Military Commission, and Lieutenant General He Lei, former deputy director of the PLA Academy of Military Science.

Former ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai is among the Chinese delegation. Photo: Xinhua
Defence chief Wei will make a keynote address on Sunday, outlining China’s vision for regional order. But aside from that, none of the active People’s Liberation Army delegates will make formal speeches or join plenary sessions over the next two days as they have in previous years.
China will also not be represented at the Southeast Asian Young Leaders’ Programme Roundtable as it has in the past. The discussion will focus on the South China Sea and great power rivalry, as well as challenges to centrality in the region – issues that will put China at the centre of criticism as it has been at earlier summits.
The gathering of military and government officials and security experts is being held after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

US-China fireworks, Kishida speech: key facts on the Shangri-La Dialogue

Ahead of the security meeting, China’s official media has been given strict instructions to avoid covering sensitive and controversial issues, and to be careful about social media posts related to China-US competition.

Strict pandemic controls are also in place for the Chinese delegation and media. “All of us need to quarantine for three weeks when we return to Beijing under the zero-Covid policy,” one of the delegates told the South China Morning Post.