China files corruption charges against former defense ministers

China’s leaders on Thursday accused two former defense ministers of taking “huge” bribes and other acts of corruption that compromised the country’s military promotions and arms manufacturing complex.

Two announcements by the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, a council of 24 top officials, contained multiple accusations of criminality and insubordination against the general. Li Shangfumost of last year Minister of Defense, and General. Wei Fenghethe minister from 2018 to 2023. The statements suggested that more heads could roll as investigations expand.

Since last year, speculation has arisen that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has launched an investigation into military corruption and misconduct after senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force were abruptly replaced or disappeared. General Li’s resignation as defense minister in October after months of disappearing from public view reinforced the rumours. But only now has China’s leadership revealed the range of allegations involved in the investigations.

The announcement about General Li said he had accepted bribes in exchange for abusing his powers, including through corrupt personnel decisions, and that he had bribed others and tried to obstruct the investigation into him. announcement about General Wei made similar allegations, saying he had been handed valuables and money.

Both men were stripped of their military ranks and expelled from the Communist Party, and their cases were sent to military prosecutors, almost inevitably meaning that both would be tried, found guilty and given severe sentences, including the death penalty, if their crimes were deemed particularly serious. The statements also suggested that their misdeeds amounted to a betrayal of Mr Xi, who is both chairman of the Central Military Commission and party leader.

Both generals had been members of the committee. General Li “betrayed the party’s aspirations and party principles, and his actions betrayed the trust of the party’s Central Committee and the Central Military Commission,” the party said. General Wei was further accused of a “collapse of faith” in the party.

The announcements could trigger broader investigations that could, at least temporarily, slow the pace of China’s rapid military modernization drive. The announcements said that investigators were following more leads, and that General Li’s corruption had “severely contaminated” the military equipment sector and companies. Before his appointment as defense minister, he had become a specialist in military equipment, a sector that has seen decades of rising spending.

“The announcements seem to indicate something very serious,” Andrew N.D. Yang, an expert on the Chinese military who previously served in Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, said in a telephone interview.

Mr Yang said the generals’ apparent resistance to investigators and claims they were losing faith in the party would be particularly troubling for Mr Xi because the details could point to broader discontent or insubordination in the senior ranks of the People’s Liberation Army.

“I think we can expect extensive investigations into the military, not only in the Rocket Force, but also in other sectors,” Mr. Yang said, referring to the Chinese armed forces.

Mr Xi underscored his determination earlier this month to root out misconduct and perceived disloyalty in China’s military when he met commanders in Yan’an, an officially holy area in northwestern China where Mao Zedong rallied troops during the revolution and war against Japan. .

Mr Xi had held a similar conference on “political work” for the military in 2014, when he was rooting out corruption that had emerged over the past decades, including the buying and selling of promotions.

But apparently problems persist, and on his final trip Mr Xi invoked the ghost of Mao’s army as inspiration and warning.

“Senior officers throughout the military should bear in mind the aspirations of the founding fathers and take the lead in promoting the Yan’an spirit,” Mr. Xi said, according to the official. summary of the three day meeting. “Ensure that the people’s army always maintains its true nature and mission, and always dares to fight and win.”

The armed forces are crucial to Xi’s political power and to his vision of China as a resurgent global power.

Domestically, the People’s Liberation Army is a pillar of Communist Party dominance, sworn to absolute loyalty to Mr Xi. Externally, the military plays a key role in Xi’s efforts to exert influence and reduce US dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also crucial to China’s efforts to absorb Taiwan — the island democracy about 100 miles off the coast of the mainland that Beijing claims as its territory.

But the demise of the two former defense ministers indicates that Mr. Xi’s ability to choose and promote the right commanders within the People’s Liberation Army may be in doubt, said Mr. Yang, the Taiwanese military expert.

An engineer, General Li, 66, rose through the ranks in missiles, weapons development and China’s manned space program. He was the first deputy commander of the Strategic Support Force, which Mr Xi established in late 2015 as part of a reorganization of China’s military. In April, Mr Xi has broken up power in three separate units.

General Wei, 70, was the first commander of the Rocket Force, the custodian of most of China’s nuclear weapons and thousands of conventional missiles. Mr. Xi established the Rocket Force in late 2015, upgrading its former missile arm, the Second Artillery Corps.

“They were both promoted by him, so how can he say he’s choosing the right people for the right positions?” Mr. Yang said. Still, Mr. Yang said he didn’t expect a major disruption to China’s plans to build more and more military ships, planes and missiles.

“The goal for Xi Jinping is to develop the most effective military,” Mr. Yang. “That won’t change.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button