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Friday, September 29, 2023

China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu Under Investigation for Corruption

China’s defence minister, General Li Shangfu, has been missing from public view for more than a month and is reportedly under investigation for corruption, according to Reuters. Li, who was appointed to the post in March this year, is a veteran of China’s military modernisation drive and a close ally of President Xi Jinping.

Li’s disappearance comes amid Xi’s sweeping campaign to root out corruption and disloyalty in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and other state institutions. Xi has vowed to make the PLA a world-class military by 2049 and has overseen a rapid expansion of China’s defence budget, weapons development, and overseas presence.

Li was previously in charge of the PLA’s strategic support force, which is responsible for China’s space and cyber warfare capabilities. He was also the head of the equipment development department of the Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s top defence body, which is chaired by Xi.

As the defence minister, Li was the public face of China’s military and had a diplomatic role in dealing with foreign counterparts. He was also one of China’s five state councillors, a cabinet position that outranks other ministers.


However, Li’s relations with the United States were strained by his involvement in the purchase of Russian weapons, which led to U.S. sanctions on him in 2018. China has repeatedly demanded that the U.S. lift the sanctions on Li if it wants to resume high-level military communications, which have been frozen since last year over Taiwan and other issues.

Reuters could not ascertain what purchases were under scrutiny in the corruption probe, but cited sources as saying that it was part of a broader investigation into military procurement. China’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment, and the foreign ministry said it was not aware of the situation.

Li’s absence has raised speculation about his fate and the impact on China’s military leadership. Some analysts say that Li’s downfall could signal Xi’s dissatisfaction with the PLA’s performance or his intention to consolidate his power over the military. Others say that Li could be replaced by someone more loyal or more capable of advancing China’s military interests.


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