China Starts Political Purges

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The secretive Chinese Communist Party is going through leadership changes behind the scenes.

Li Shangfu, the defense minister, has not been seen for two weeks. This indicates his removal from power by Xi Jinping, the leader of China. Bloomberg reports:

Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen in public for more than two weeks, with a steady trickle of reports suggesting that China’s fourth-most senior military figure is the latest top Communist Party official to be abruptly ousted from the upper echelons of Xi’s ranks.

The US government believes the defense minister has been stripped of his duties and placed under investigation, according to a report in the Financial Times, citing three US officials and two people briefed on the intelligence. It didn’t describe the nature of the probe.

Li’s role as defense minister is not an operational one, since he does not command forces. The Wall Street Journal continues:

The 65-year-old Li’s unexplained absence mirrors the recent disappearances of other senior officials. In July, Beijing abruptly removed Qin Gang as foreign minister after he vanished without explanation a month earlier. Days later, Xi named a new commander for China’s strategic-missile force, ousting a general who hadn’t been seen in public for months.

As defense minister, Li largely handles military diplomacy and doesn’t hold command responsibilities over combat operations.

While the time for execution purges in China is mostly over, the Communist Party still lacks transparency in its removal of officials.

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