Chinese military purge exposes weakness, could widen (Yew Lun Tian and Laurie Chen, December 31, 2023, Reuters)


Beijing did not explain why the generals were removed. Some analysts say the evidence points towards corruption over equipment procurement by the PLA Rocket Force.

“More heads will roll. The purge that centred around the Rocket Force is not over,” said Alfred Wu, associate professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

Wei Fenghe, a former defence minister who used to head the Rocket Force, has also vanished. When asked about his whereabouts, a defence ministry spokesman said in August that the military has zero tolerance for corruption.

His successor, Li Shangfu, was abruptly removed as defence minister in October without explanation after also disappearing for months. He had previously headed the equipment department. One of his then deputies was removed from parliament on Friday.

On the same day, Dong Jun, a Chinese ex-Navy chief, with a South China Sea background, was named Li’s replacement as defence minister.

Analysts say that while the Chinese military has long been known for corruption, the extent of the latest crackdown and the involvement of the PLA’s Rocket Force is shocking.

“This part of the PLA would have the most rigorous vetting process for senior officers, given the importance of having highly trusted men in charge of China’s nuclear weapons,” said Dennis Wilder, senior fellow for the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University.

“Moreover, it seems to have involved several senior men rather than one ‘bad apple’.”