News and Views on Tibet

China’s missing defence minister triggers speculation

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Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu in an undated photo (Photo/Twitter)

By Tenzin Nyidon

DHARAMSHALA, Sept 14: The prolonged absence of Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu from public view and a recent statement from President Xi Jinping emphasising the paramount importance of “unity” within the military, has fuelled speculations concerning the removal of Minister Li from his position. This development closely follows China’s decision to dismiss its foreign minister from office in July.

On September 8, 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasised the imperative need to comprehensively enhance combat readiness. This statement came during his inspection of an army base in the north-eastern region of China, underscoring the significance of bolstering military preparedness against the backdrop of mounting speculation surrounding the whereabouts of China’s Defence Minister.

Li Shangfu’s most recent public appearance was at an official event in Beijing on August 29, where he served as the keynote speaker at the Third China-Africa Peace and Security Forum. The event was attended by more than 100 delegates, aimed at bolstering diplomatic relations between China and African nations.

Speculations have intensified following remarks by Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan surrounding the recent disappearances of high-ranking officials in China’s government and military. In a post dated September 8 on a social media platform, Emanuel noted, “President Xi’s cabinet lineup is now resembling Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And Then There Were None.’ First, Foreign Minister Qin Gang goes missing, then the Rocket Force commanders go missing, and now Defence Minister Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen in public for two weeks. Who’s going to win this unemployment race? China’s youth or Xi’s cabinet? #MysteryInBeijingBuilding.”

In recent weeks, China has been grappling with a series of enigmatic events within its political and military circles, prompting speculation and intrigue. The unsettling series of events in Beijing has also been under scrutiny for several weeks, beginning with President Xi Jinping’s sudden removal of his handpicked foreign minister, Qin. This decision was made without official explanation. Subsequently, President Xi replaced the two highest-ranking officials in the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force, both of whom he had appointed earlier.

Li Shangfu’s was appointed the China’s Defence Minister in March 2023, and he was concurrently appointed as a State Councillor later that year.

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