China’s Military Purge – Who’s Next in Line?

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In a recent commentary published by China’s state-run PLA Daily, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has issued a stark warning to its military personnel, urging them to exercise caution in their social interactions and be mindful of the company they keep. The message conveys that socializing with the “wrong people” has played a significant role in the removal of certain leaders from their positions within the Chinese military.

While the commentary did not delve into specific details regarding the ousted leaders, it did emphasize the imperative need for military cadres to “purify their social circle.” This admonition aligns with the code of conduct for cadres’ social interactions, which the Central Military Commission issued in June. As per the PLA Daily commentary, if events or meal appointments are deemed non-essential, they should be avoided as a precautionary measure.

The timing of this cautionary message coincides with several high-profile departures from key positions within China’s political and military hierarchy. Notably, President Xi Jinping removed Qin Gang from his role as foreign minister in late July, marking one of the shortest tenures ever for this position. Reports suggested that an investigation uncovered an extramarital affair during Qin’s tenure as China’s ambassador to Washington, a revelation that likely contributed to his removal.

Another prominent figure affected by this recent wave of changes is Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who suddenly vanished from public view at the end of August. His disappearance followed closely after the ousting of generals responsible for managing China’s nuclear arsenal. Reports indicated that a military inquiry into corruption cases linked to procurement, dating back over five years, took place—coinciding with Li’s leadership of the equipment department.

The situation has raised concerns, particularly among U.S. officials who possess intelligence indicating that Li Shangfu may have been removed from his post. However, this sensitive matter has yet to be confirmed by official sources. The PLA’s warning serves as a reminder of President Xi Jinping’s continuous efforts to maintain discipline and loyalty within the ranks of both the Chinese military and the Communist Party. Xi’s broader campaign against corruption and the imperative to ensure unwavering allegiance to the party remains a priority in contemporary China.

As China navigates through these changes in its military and political landscape, the country continues to underscore the significance of maintaining strict party discipline and fostering a sense of political correctness among its leadership—a key feature of the ongoing governance under President Xi Jinping.