Asia

Former head of southern fleet appointed to lead China's navy

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Chinese Navy officials stand in front of the ship Daqing, in San Diego. China has appointed the former head of its southern fleet as the new commander of its increasingly powerful navy. Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong takes command of a sprawling force that is growing in both size and modernity as China seeks to assert its regional maritime claims and project strength far from its shores. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Chinese Navy officials stand in front of the ship Daqing, in San Diego. China has appointed the former head of its southern fleet as the new commander of its increasingly powerful navy. Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong takes command of a sprawling force that is growing in both size and modernity as China seeks to assert its regional maritime claims and project strength far from its shores. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)  (The Associated Press)

China has appointed the former head of its southern fleet as its increasingly powerful navy's new commander.

Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong takes command of a sprawling force that is growing in both size and technological sophistication as China seeks to assert its regional maritime claims and project strength far from home. China last year declared its sole aircraft carrier to be combat ready and has been building cutting-edge destroyers, frigates and submarines at a rapid clip.

That has brought the service into increasing contact with the U.S. Navy, long the dominant military force in the Asia-Pacific, although conflicts have largely been avoided.

Shen was elevated to the position on Friday by President Xi Jinping, who chairs the government and ruling Communist Party commissions overseeing the 2.3 million-member armed forces.