Where Is The Chinese Defence Minister, Li Shangfu?

On the 14th of September, the ‘Financial Times’ reported that China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu could be under investigation along with ten other officials in his ministry due to corruption allegations regarding an arms deal. This news comes after his absence from the public for more than three weeks. 

This comes after the mysterious disappearance of Foreign Minister Qin Gang in July and two rocket force commanders in early August. Though the disappearance of famous personalities is not uncommon in China, the same happening to the CCP senior officials has shocked everyone.

What Really Happened to Li Shangfu?

On March of 2023, Li Shangfu was appointed as the defence minister of China, replacing Wei Fenghe. He was also a state councillor and a general in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). He delivered a keynote speech at the 3rd China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing which was his last public appearance before he disappeared from public view on August 29. Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, raised the possibility of his disappearance for two weeks on X on the 8th of September.

The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal then reported that Li Shangfu was under investigation for corruption and likely to be removed from his position, citing U.S. officials as sources. The Reuters news agency also reported that he had pulled out of a meeting with Vietnamese defence officials a week ago. A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said he was not aware of the situation regarding Li Shangfu at a press briefing.

His disappearance has been the subject of much speculation. Some have suggested that he was purged by Xi Jinping in a consolidation of power, while others have suggested that he was arrested for corruption or other scandals. Still others have suggested that he may have simply fallen ill or retired.

The Chinese government has not released any information about Li Shangfu’s whereabouts or the reasons for his disappearance. This lack of transparency has led to speculation and concern that something more sinister is at play.

Big Military Shake-Up

In August 2023, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force, which controls the country’s nuclear and conventional missiles, underwent a major leadership shake-up. This was the first time since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 that the Rocket Force had seen such a significant turnover in its top leadership.

The shake-up saw the removal of several senior officers, including the Rocket Force commander, Lieutenant General Li Jijun. Li was replaced by Major General Wang Wei, who had previously served as the deputy commander of the Rocket Force’s strategic missile forces.

The reasons for the shake-up are not entirely clear, but it is likely that Xi is seeking to tighten his grip on the PLA and to ensure that the Rocket Force is loyal to him. The shake-up also comes at a time when China is facing a number of challenges, including tensions with the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Another Missing Minister – Qin Gang

Qin Gang was the foreign minister of China until he was removed from his position in July 2023. On January 2023, Qin Gang was appointed as the foreign minister of China, replacing Wang Yi. He was also a state councillor and a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He was seen as a close associate of President Xi Jinping and a prominent “wolf warrior” diplomat who defended China’s interests and policies in a confrontational manner.

In June 2023 he disappeared from public view for more than three weeks, fuelling speculation about his “disappearance”. The official reason given for his absence was some sort of health issue. 

But on July 25th , 2023 he was officially sacked as the foreign minister of China, in a rare political scandal engulfing a former loyalist to Xi Jinping. The Chinese government did not confirm or deny the reports about Qin Gang’s fate or the reasons for his dismissal.

As the weeks went on and he failed to re-emerge, rumours turned to the possibility that he was being punished for stepping out of line politically or having an affair with a female TV journalist, Fu Xiaotian. Some have also suggested that the disappearance is due to President Xi’s paranoia, as the members of the party started seeing him as a successor to him. Qin Gang was a close ally of Xi Jinping, and it is possible that he removed Qin Gang from his position to eliminate a potential rival.

Is Wang Yi Missing too? 

Apart from these, there were also speculations of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who replaced Qin Gang, has been ordered to write a self-criticism at home after being removed from his position. This happened because allegedly he embarrassed Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit this year. Though the reports have not been confirmed, his absence in G20 India and cancellation of the annual UN General Assembly meet at New York support these claims to a certain extent.

Furthermore, Li Zhaoxing, the former Chinese Foreign Minister who has been retired for as long as 16 years and is now 83 years old, recently remerged to represent the CCP at the 7th China-Australia High-Level Dialogue.

Though the opacity of the Chinese administration prevents others from getting an insider view, it is clear to everyone that the party is going through a sever crisis. The ministers in the party although don’t hold the most power, they are situated at the top of the food chain. And Xi’s crackdown on the ministers in this manner somehow points towards a possible power grab or a soft coup that may have failed. 

But this exposed the cracks of the Communist Party to the world. The party right now lacks capable leaders, the economy is plummeting, tension with the US and the West is rising, and people are expressing dissent more often all the while the CCP with its power hierarchy is crumbling piece by piece.