'Early Warning System For Integrity': Xi Launches New Crusade To Purge Corruption In China’s Military As Decade-Long Effort Fails

Swarajya Staff

Jul 31, 2023, 03:30 PM | Updated 09:34 PM IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Illustration: Swarajya Magazine)
Chinese President Xi Jinping (Illustration: Swarajya Magazine)

In a significant development, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has initiated a fresh campaign aimed at enforcing party discipline and rooting out corruption within the military. This move comes as an indication that his decade-long efforts to exert tight personal control over the armed forces have fallen short.

At recent high-level meetings held in Beijing, Xi conveyed a strong message to military leaders, stressing the necessity to address the persisting issues related to party organizations' enforcement of absolute leadership over the military at all levels.

The Central Military Commission, chaired by Xi himself, has called for the establishment of an "early warning mechanism for integrity risks in the military." Additionally, it has launched an investigation into corruption in equipment procurement going back almost six years.

Notably, several top officers of the People's Liberation Army's Rocket Force, responsible for overseeing China's nuclear and conventional missile arsenals, have vanished from public view. Such occurrences often indicate ongoing investigations. Among those unaccounted for is Li Yuchao, the commander of the PLA Rocket Force, who was conspicuously absent from Xi's recent promotion event for senior PLA generals.

Cercius, a Canada-based consultancy specializing in tracking elite Chinese politics, has raised concerns about approximately ten current and former Rocket Force officials whose status remains unclear, including Li and his deputy Liu Guangbin.

Rod Lee, a leading expert on the PLA Rocket Force and research director of the China Aerospace Studies Institute at the US Air Force's university, stated, "It is very very possible that some if not all of the individuals including current and former commanders were rolled up for discipline or corruption."

Though not officially announced, several current and past PLA Rocket Force officers, including Li Yuchao and Liu Guangbin, have reportedly become subjects of a probe, according to the South China Morning Post.

Xi's "anti-corruption" campaign, in effect since 2012, has been instrumental in eliminating political rivals and tackling endemic graft, ensnaring nearly 5 million lower-level officials and thousands of higher-level figures, earning them the moniker "tigers." This campaign has also targeted executives in various industries and China's anti-graft watchdogs.

The renewed focus on the military may have been prompted by a specific case or broader concerns regarding political loyalty. The Rocket Force is a strategically vital branch of the PLA, responsible for China's land-based nuclear deterrent and missile systems critical to potential actions involving Taiwan and efforts to limit US forces' movement in the western Pacific.

Xi's initial tenure saw a dramatic overhaul aimed at asserting control over the military, which was deemed to have slipped into decay and out of the Communist party's control. Notably, two former CMC vice-chairs faced prosecution for corruption in 2014.

Experts suggest that Xi's new push may indicate a failure in previous reforms aimed at curbing corruption within the military and ensuring loyalty to the party. Despite consolidating control over the PLA over the past decade, Xi's efforts are not considered complete.

As China prepares to celebrate PLA Day on August 1, marking the founding of the CCP's armed services, official media has released articles urging cadres to "strengthen military governance," signaling that the absolute loyalty to the party remains a challenge.

Xi's renewed campaign aims to re-emphasize the drive against corruption and reinforce the theme of loyalty to the party within the military.

The Chinese leader has significantly centralized control over the military, elevating the powers of the CMC chair and implementing changes in the communist party charter to solidify his authority.

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