Chinese defense minister under investigation by Beijing, US believes | ET REALITY

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The US government believes that Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has been placed under investigation, in the latest sign of turmoil among elite members of Beijing’s military and foreign policy establishment.

Three U.S. officials and two people briefed on the intelligence said the United States had concluded that Li, who has not been seen in public for more than two weeks, had been stripped of his responsibilities as defense minister.

The measure occurs two months later PorcelainChinese President Xi Jinping has dismissed the two top generals of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s rapidly expanding arsenal of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

The investigation into Li also follows the disappearance of Qin Gangwho was ousted as Chinese foreign minister in July.

The people briefed on the intelligence did not say what had led the Biden administration to conclude that Li was being investigated. The White House had no comment. The Chinese embassy in the United States declined to comment.

Reuters on Thursday cited Vietnamese officials as saying Li abruptly canceled a meeting last week due to a “health condition.” At one point before Qin’s overthrow, the Chinese Foreign Ministry explained his mysterious absence from official events as health-related.

In 2018, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Li in connection with China’s purchase of Russian weapons when he headed the PLA’s main department for weapons acquisition and development.

China has refused to arrange any meeting between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Li as Washington maintained sanctions against the general, a situation that worsened already bleak bilateral military-to-military relations.

Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, last week fueled speculation about Li when published in Xpreviously Twitter, that China’s government “now looks like Agatha Christie’s novel And then there were none.”

“First, Foreign Minister Qin Gang disappears, then the Rocket Force commanders disappear, and now Defense Minister Li Shangfu has not been seen in public for two weeks,” he wrote with the hashtag #MysteryInBeijingBuilding.

The investigation into Li raises questions about the effectiveness of the anti-corruption campaign that Xi, who serves as chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, had waged against the Chinese military.

“If the dismissal of the defense minister and Rocket Force leaders was due to corruption, it indicates that Xi’s vetting process for selecting top officials is deeply flawed and suggests that corruption is common within the system despite Xi’s decade-long campaign against it,” said Dennis Wilder, a former CIA expert on the PLA.

Wilder added that the equipment department, formerly called the general armament department, had a long history of having the “worst corruption” within the Chinese military.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said Li’s removal could help US-China military relations by removing the obstacle that China says would prevent any meeting with Austin.

“I don’t think it calls into question Xi Jinping’s control over the military, but it should be a reminder of how much corruption exists in the system,” Glaser added.

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