The Chinese government has confirmed that Defense Minister Li Shangfu has been dismissed from his position. This announcement comes after weeks of speculation about the official’s whereabouts due to his extended absence from the public spotlight.
During a meeting of China’s top legislative body on Tuesday, lawmakers confirmed a series of personnel decisions, including the sacking of Li. He also served as a state councilor of China. The national media reported on the dismissal, but no replacement has been named at this time.
Li’s dismissal mirrors the sudden replacement of former foreign minister Qin Gang earlier this year, following a prolonged withdrawal from public appearances. Chinese officials have not provided any reasons for these decisions, occasionally informing reporters that the ministers were absent due to health reasons while asserting that their departments were functioning normally.
In addition to being removed from the defense portfolio, Li has also been removed from Beijing’s Central Military Commission, the ruling body for the People’s Liberation Army, according to local media reports. Li had an extensive career in government prior to his appointment as defense minister. He spent approximately three decades working on China’s space program and even led some moon missions. In 2018, while heading a PLA equipment development unit, he was subjected to US secondary sanctions for helping Beijing acquire Russian-made Su-35 fighter jets and equipment related to the S-400 missile defense platform.
The former defense chief was last seen in public on August 29 and was subsequently reported to be under investigation for corruption by Chinese authorities, according to ten unnamed sources cited by Reuters. The probe was said to be linked to Li’s time at the equipment unit and reportedly targeted eight other senior officials from the same department.
The dismissal of Defense Minister Li Shangfu has sparked speculation and raised questions about the motives behind these sudden personnel changes within the Chinese government. Some observers believe that President Xi Jinping is tightening his control and removing officials who are not fully aligned with his policies and agenda. Others suggest that corruption may be a key factor, as President Xi has launched a high-profile campaign to root out graft and punish corrupt officials.
Whatever the reasons may be, these dismissals highlight the intense power struggles and internal dynamics within the Chinese political system. As China continues to assert itself on the global stage, these personnel changes in key positions of power will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for the country’s defense and foreign policy.
It remains to be seen who will replace Li Shangfu as defense minister and how this new leadership will shape China’s military strategy and posture. The Chinese government’s tight control over information makes it difficult to ascertain the true motivations and consequences of these personnel changes. Nonetheless, these developments underscore the ongoing shifts and tensions within China’s political landscape.