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Has China’s defence minister also disappeared?

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(TibetanReview.net, Sep11’23) – Chinese President Xi Jinping has on Sep 8 called for comprehensively enhancing the troops’ combat readiness during an inspection of a group army headquartered in the country’s northeast as speculation whirled on the whereabouts of defence minister Li Shangfu. His last public appearance was on Aug 29 when he delivered a keynote speech at the 3rd China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing, noted Bloomberg.com Sep 11.

Li’s disappearance is only the latest in a string of other cases involving some top Chinese leaders in recent months that include former foreign minister Qin Gang and former Rocket Force generals.

The report said rumours had been swirling on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, over Li’s whereabouts.

The report noted that China watchers had for some weeks been scrutinizing unusual developments in Beijing. It began when President Xi Jinping in July ousted Qin, his handpicked foreign minister, without explanation. The two most-senior leaders in the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force, whom he had also appointed, were then replaced.

The replacement of the generals took place alongside Chinese military’s launch of an inquiry into corruption cases linked to hardware procurement going back more than five years in July. The PLA’s Equipment Development Department listed eight issues it was looking into, including “leaking information on projects and army units” and helping certain companies secure bids, the report said.

The military has said it was investigating problems going back to Oct 2017, without saying why the date was significant. Defence minister Li had headed the equipment department from Sep 2017 to 2022, though there is no sign that he is suspected of wrongdoing, the report noted.

Li Shangfu is an aerospace engineer and a general of the People’s Liberation Army. He is currently a State Councillor and was made the Minister of National Defence in Mar 2023.

In his Sep 8 speech, Xi called for high level of unity and stability within the military, while urging efforts to improve the level of combat readinesses and the building of new combat capabilities, reported China’s official Xinhua news agency Sep 10.

The report said Xi was accompanied by Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China’s top military body.

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