China dismisses defense minister amid whirlwind of speculation | ET REALITY


Just four months ago, China’s Defense Minister General Li Shangfu was at a forum for regional officials in Singapore, serving as the face of his country’s bold vision to reshape Asia’s balance of power. He portrayed China as a force for stability and accused the United States of stirring up trouble in the region, suggesting its leaders should “mind their own business.”

Now General Li has been ousted after nearly two months out of public view, the latest example of China’s capricious rules of power under strongman leader Xi Jinping.

China’s announcement on Tuesday ended some uncertainty about General Li’s professional fate, but leaves open questions about whether he is being investigated for any crime. US officials had previously said that Chinese authorities had placed him under investigation for corruption.

General Li is the second Chinese minister purged this year without explanation and under a cloud of suspicion; Foreign Minister Qin Gang was dismissed in July. The general’s ouster also followed an abrupt shakeup in the leadership of China’s nuclear force, the highest-level upheaval in the Chinese military in recent years.

General Li’s removal from office was announced by Chinese state media in brief reports that noted other official appointments and dismissals. Reports said the decision was made on Tuesday at the end of a meeting of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, a council of the country’s Communist Party-controlled legislature that formally appoints top government officials.

General Li was last seen in public in late August, when spoke at a forum in Beijing Officials from African nations attended.

For much of his career, General Li was involved in China’s rocket and space programs, developing missiles and other advanced weapons, a part of his resume that has come under scrutiny since reports emerged about the possible investigation of corruption.

In late July, Xi abruptly replaced the two top commanders of the Rocket Force, the arm of the Chinese military that oversees its nuclear missiles and a much larger range of conventional missiles. The Chinese government gave no explanation for his dismissal, but news reports in Hong Kong They have linked the unrest to an investigation into corruption or other misconduct at Rocket Force, which Xi created in late 2015.

General Li was under US sanctions for his role in purchasing Russian fighter jets and missiles, and China rejected US calls for talks between General Li and his American counterpart unless Washington lifted the sanctions.

Amy Chang-Chien contributed reporting from Taipei.

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