Xi Jinping carries out 2nd leadership shake-up in 3 months, sacks Li Shangfu | World News - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Xi Jinping carries out 2nd leadership shake-up in 3 months, sacks Li Shangfu

BySutirtho Patranobis
Oct 24, 2023 08:37 PM IST

Besides sacking Li Shangfu, China’s National People’s Congress, also voted to remove former foreign minister Qin Gang from his position as state councillor

China has removed its missing defence minister General Li Shangfu from his ministerial position and as state councillor, Chinese state media said on Tuesday, in the country’s second, and rare, top leadership shake-up in three months.

Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a presidential decree Tuesday to remove Li Shangfu as State Councillor and Minister of National Defence, and to remove Qin Gang as State Councillor (AFP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a presidential decree Tuesday to remove Li Shangfu as State Councillor and Minister of National Defence, and to remove Qin Gang as State Councillor (AFP)

Besides sacking Li, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, also voted to remove former foreign minister Qin Gang from his position as state councillor, the reports said. The Chinese government is yet to name Li’s successor.

Unlock exclusive access to the story of India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now!

“President Xi Jinping signed a presidential decree Tuesday to remove Li Shangfu as China’s State Councillor and Minister of National Defence, and to remove Qin Gang as State Councillor. Li was also removed as a member of Central Military Commission on Tuesday,” the tabloid, Global Times, said in a report on Tuesday.

Qin was sacked as foreign minister and replaced by Wang Yi in July but continued as state councillor, which is a role that holds higher seniority in China’s state council or cabinet, until now.

No explanation was given for the removal of Li who was last seen in public on August 29; neither has Beijing offered any explanation why Qin was sacked as foreign minister in July.

China on October 24 removed its defence minister Li Shangfu from its cabinet as part of a major reshuffle of its top leadership (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
China on October 24 removed its defence minister Li Shangfu from its cabinet as part of a major reshuffle of its top leadership (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)

It is being speculated that the probable cause behind Li’s disappearance and removal could be corruption. The ruling Communist party’s investigating agencies are yet to announce if charges have been filed against Li.

Chinese state media noted on Tuesday that Li’s appointment as defence minister had impacted defence interactions with the US as he had been sanctioned by Washington in 2018.

“The sanction later became a trouble to China-US military exchanges when Li became the Chinese defence minister,” the Global Times article quoted earlier said.

Li, an aerospace engineer by training, was appointed as defence minister in March during the annual session of the NPC; Both Li and Qin were appointed state councillors during the March session.

Impact

The defence minister’s sacking comes in the backdrop of ongoing military talks between India and China to resolve the 40-month-long standoff from May 2020 along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector, plunging bilateral ties to their worst in decades.

A deadly clash at Galwan Valley in June 2020 left 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops dead – the first fatalities along the LAC since 1975.

Both sides have deployed thousands of troops and heavy armament along the LAC.

Li visited New Delhi in late April to attend a meeting of defence ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) where he had said that the situation on the China-India border was “generally stable” and the two sides “should take a long-term view, place the border issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, and promote the transition of the border situation to normalised management”.

Li, according to a Chinese readout of his meeting with Indian defence minister, Rajnath Singh, said that as neighbouring and important developing countries, China and India “share far more common interests than differences”, and the two sides should view bilateral ties “from a comprehensive, long-term and strategic perspective, and jointly contribute wisdom and strength to world and regional peace and stability”.

“It is hoped that the two sides will work together to continuously enhance mutual trust between the two militaries and make proper contributions to the development of bilateral relations,” the Chinese readout, quoting him telling Indian defence minister, Rajnath Singh, had said.

Li disappears

Four months later, Li disappeared. There was mounting speculation on the whereabouts of the US-sanctioned Li since early September after he was not seen in public since August-end and missed defence ministry-related engagements.

Several news reports had pointed to 65-year-old Li’s absence from public events including his withdrawal from a meeting with Vietnamese defence leadership as a sign that he may be under investigation.

A Reuters report in September said Li has been “…placed under investigation by Chinese authorities,” quoting 10 people familiar with the matter. The investigation relates to “procurement of military equipment, according to a regional security official and three people in direct contact with the Chinese military.”

Li came under the US’ scrutiny five years ago for allegedly purchasing Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 missile system equipment from Russian arms seller Rosoboronexport; at the time, he was the director of the Equipment Development Department of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC).

Li served as chief of Staff of the PLA General Armaments Department, the deputy commander of the PLA Strategic Support Force, and the director of the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission.

Before his appointment as defence minister, Li was the director of China’s main satellite launch sites in Xichang in southwest China’s Sichuan Province and played a major role in lunar exploration missions, “…making him an aerospace expert who was a senior official of China’s space project,” the GT article said.

Discover the complete story of India's general elections on our exclusive Elections Product! Access all the content absolutely free on the HT App. Download now!

Get Latest World News, Israel-Iran News Live along with Latest News from India at Hindustan Times.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On