Explained: Why The Chinese Communist Party Has Expelled Two Former Defence Ministers

Ujjwal Shrotryia

Jun 28, 2024, 05:03 PM | Updated 05:05 PM IST

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Shangfu along with his predecessor Wei Fenghe expelled from Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Shangfu along with his predecessor Wei Fenghe expelled from Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In an unprecedented move, China announced the expulsion of two disgraced former Defence Ministers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), General Wei Fenghe and his successor Li Shangfu.

This follows the abrupt dismissal of Shangfu from the post of Defence Minister after a short stint of just seven months. He succeeded Wei Fenghe who served from 2018 till 2023.

Similarly, Qin Gang, China's shortest-serving foreign minister, was also removed.

This was announced in a high-profile 24-member meeting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held on Thursday (28 June).

These expulsions come as part of the so-called anti-corruption drive of Chinese President Xi Jinping where several of the high-ranking officers of the PLA, the foreign ministry, and even the highly strategic Rocket Force (PLARF) were removed from their positions on account of corruption and bribery.

According to reports, in the inquiry against Shangfu held by the Chinese Military Commission (CMC), it was found that Shangfu accepted gifts and large sums of money in exchange for favours, apart from giving bribes himself.

Wei Fenghe, on the other hand, is accused of taking bribes.

In the investigations, it was found that serious disciplinary and criminal lapses occurred under the tenures of both these ministers.

The inquiry report, according to South China Morning Post, uses unusually harsh words for the two ministers, noting "Wei, a senior party and PLA leader, had a collapse of faith and a loss of loyalty and seriously polluted the political ecosystem of the PLA. Meanwhile, Li had abandoned the original mission and lost the principles of the party and seriously contaminated the PLA’s military equipment industry."

The report noted in dismay that, "Their actions betrayed the trust of the party’s central leadership and the CMC… and caused great damage to the party’s cause, national defence, and the construction of the PLA, as well as to the image of the senior leading cadres."

“It was of an extremely serious nature, with an extremely bad impact and extremely great harm,” the report added.

Wei Fenghe helmed the PLA Second Artillery Corps (SAC) from 2012 till 2015 when it was restructured into PLARF. Previously, nine serving former officers of PLARF were also stripped of their ranks.

Reportedly, these removals were linked to widespread corruption and issues in PLARF which cast doubts on the integrity of the rocket forces. The reports stated that some of the highly strategic missiles were filled with water instead of fuel, and there were serious issues in the lids of ground-based missile silos.

China's prized PLARF is one of the most feared arms of the PLA. It is said to have the largest inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles, potentially even surpassing that of the United States inventories.

Therefore, these accusations have raised questions about the readiness of the PLARF.

Apart from addressing such concerns, these removals and purges are also an attempt by Xi to consolidate all powers under his command in a highly centralised manner.

Just a fortnight ago, addressing top military officials, Xi warned against the dangers of corruption and ideological slippage in the PLA, cautioning about the decaying discipline which could torpedo efforts to raise a world-class military that could challenge Western militaries.

He said, "The gun barrel must always be grasped by people who are loyal and reliable to the party,” and combat effectiveness can only be forged through strict discipline," adding that “There must be no place in the military for corrupt elements to hide.”

He has hinted that these purges are likely to continue.

He said that the PLA must “eradicate the soil and conditions where corruption breeds,” by strengthening ideological indoctrination and expanding its toolbox for tackling new and hidden forms of corruption."

Staff Writer at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.

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