A former senior executive of an aviation institute responsible for the development of China’s key large warplanes – including bombers, transport aircraft and special mission aircraft – was recently sentenced to jail and fined for corruption and bribery, a case that will serve as a deterrent for others in the defense sector at a time when the country is facing increasing external military pressure and boosting national defense expenditure, analysts said on Wednesday.
Gao Li, 60, the former deputy director of the Xi’an-based First Aircraft Institute under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), was sentenced to jail for six and a half years and fined 500,000 yuan ($75,000) for corruption and bribery, wepolitics, a WeChat public account affiliated with the Beijing Youth Daily, reported on Tuesday, citing a verdict by the local intermediate people’s court.
Involving only a small number of individuals, the case will not likely have a significant negative impact on the nation’s ongoing warplane programs, analysts said. China is expected to develop a new type of long-range, stealth-capable strategic bomber, often dubbed as the H-20.
As a part of the JH-7 fighter bomber program and winning awards for related work in 1998, 2006 and 2007, Gao became the institute’s deputy director in 2008 and special executive in 2015, the report said, noting that he was arrested in late 2019 for suspected corruption and bribery.
According to the verdict, Gao embezzled 392,000 yuan and took bribes worth about 2.68 million yuan, in the form of renminbi, British pounds, and goods and services, from individuals, including from a US company and an Air Force institute, in procurements from 2009 to 2011.
Gao’s court verdict came after Hu Wenming, a former chairman of China’s shipbuilding conglomerate China Shipbuilding Industry Corp and former chief commander of China’s aircraft carrier program, came under investigation for suspected serious violations of discipline and law in May this year.
Recent graft cases involving senior executives of Chinese defense companies have sounded an alarm to the country’s arms sector, when China is facing increasing external military pressure and boosting national defense expenditure, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times.
The public reports of anti-graft investigations and court sentences should serve as deterrents, experts said.
The First Aircraft Institute is China’s only national-level institute capable of designing medium-sized to large military and civilian aircraft including fighter bombers, bombers, transport aircraft and special mission aircraft, wepolitics reported. The institute has set many national records, including developingChina’s first domestically made fighter bomber the JH-7, the first large early warning aircraft the KJ-2000, and the first large transport aircraft, known as the Y-20, according to cannews.com.cn, a news portal affiliated with AVIC.
China Central Television reported earlier this month that the nation is expected to develop and commission a world-class, long-range, stealth-capable strategic bomber much more powerful than the country’s current bombers, the H-6K and H-6N. It is widely speculated that this new bomber is called the H-20.
The development of a new, advanced aircraft is a collective effort, and a corruption case should not have a major impact on the program, as that would be easily spotted by other related units, analysts said, noting that it is not known if Gao was involved in any new aircraft development at all.