Multiple Chinese media outlets outside China allege that a handful of generals at or above the rank of deputy commander of China’s Rocket Force have been purged in recent months, and Chinese military insiders have said that the purge may be related to the disclosure of sensitive military secrets.
Death of Wu Guohua
According to a report by Taiwan-based media Newtalk, Wu Guohua, the former deputy commander of the Rocket Force, killed himself on July 6. An official internal circular later concluded that it was “sudden death by cerebral hemorrhage.”
Yao Cheng, a former lieutenant colonel in China’s Navy Command who is living in the United States, said in a post on Twitter on July 9 that it is unlikely that Mr. Wu died of a cerebral hemorrhage, as he had received advanced medical treatment as a military commander and likely took precautions against cardiovascular disease.
“The CCP won’t make public the real reason for the [death]; otherwise, it [fears that] it [the truth] will significantly rock the military to its core,” Mr. Yao said.
In the last couple of years, Beijing has given up announcing investigations of senior generals. Meanwhile, calling the “unnatural deaths” of military officials “deaths from illness” seems to have become standard practice.
Such “unnatural deaths” often occur in the course of reviewing cases by the CCP’s top disciplinary body, and some suicides may be motivated by fear of being held criminally responsible; As per Mr. Yao, seven navy officials committed suicide since CCP head Xi Jinping rolled out the anti-corruption policy in the army. All of them were treated as having “died of illness.”
The 66-year-old former deputy commander of the Rocket Force retired in 2020.
Coincidentally, on the day of Mr. Wu’s demise, Mr. Xi inspected the Eastern theater and gave a speech on “improving the ability of theater party committees to lead preparations for war.”
Mr. Xi’s strategy has given him a tighter grip on his army generals, leading to a succession of fallen army generals across the army, navy, and air force, and now targeting the rocket force.
Commanders of the Rocket Force
A few days before, the current commander of the Chinese Rocket Force, Li Yuchao, was taken away from his office on the morning of June 27, as per the Twitter post of Mr. Yao. The 61-year-old general, just promoted to commander last January, was absent from the promotion ceremony of the Rocket Force at the end of June.
In addition, Zhang Zhenzhong, former deputy commander of the Rocket Force and deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission, as well as Liu Guangbin, current deputy commander of the Rocket Force, were both taken away for investigation in April, Hong Kong’s Ming Pao reported on May 24.
A July 13 report by Ming Pao said that those military chiefs in the Rocket Force are involved in corruption or leakage cases, implicating the commander of the Strategic Support Forces, Ju Qiansheng.
So far, the CCP has neither admitted nor denied that the heads of Rocket Force were under investigation. However, the atmosphere at the Rocket Force has become severe—the Rocket Force Beijing Hospital was seen in a NetEase report with slogans in red, “Whoever leaks secrets goes to jail; whoever sells secrets kills!”
Military Intelligence Leak
The leak of military intelligence can be traced back on Oct. 24, 2022, when the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) at the U.S. Air Force University released a 255-page report (pdf) on the CCP’s Rocket Force exposing the organizational structure of the Chinese Rocket Force, from the high-level command system to the back-end product bases.
Specific information contains the base’s address, the unit’s primary functions, the Chinese and English names of the persons in charge, and the unit’s code. The report also includes a tree diagram showing the photos, words, and relationships of the chiefs in the head of each department of the Rocket Force. The information also includes a map of China depicting the deployment of the Rocket Force throughout the country. The report even begins with a special section on deciphering the code of units.
Mr. Yao said on the July 7 episode of NTD TV’s “Elite Forum” that the report was “so detailed that I was shocked to read it.”
“In my mind, the Rocket Force is the most secretive unit of the CCP. I thought at the time that such comprehensive information could not have been captured by any satellite, nor could any grass-roots personnel have obtained it,” Mr. Yao said, indicating that the information must have come from the Rocket Force’s organs.
The former lieutenant colonel said he had been researching the issue with his friends since then and found that the secrets were maybe leaked by the son of Mr. Li, who was studying in the United States.
Vulnerabilities and Fears in the Rocket Force
The Rocket Force is seen as the CCP’s “Ace Army.” On Dec. 31, 2015, at the inaugural meeting of the Rocket Force and Strategic Support Forces, Mr. Xi claimed that the Rocket Force is “the core of the CCP’s strategic deterrence” and strategic support for the Communist regime.
As a missile unit in the nuclear triad (a comprehensive nuclear deterrent capability), the Rocket Force has a global attack capability, with its primary mission being to use medium- and long-range missiles to attack ground targets, military commentator Xia Luoshan told The Epoch Times.
“But it [the Rocket Force] is also the most vulnerable part of the nuclear triad,” Mr. Xia said.
He further explained that in the event of combat in the Taiwan Straits, the Rocket force would bear the brunt of attack tasks, striking first at key targets on the ground and at sea in Taiwan. “At the same time, it [the Rocket Force] will also be the main target of attack by the United States and Taiwan.”
Mr. Yao, the above-mentioned former lieutenant colonel in China’s Navy Command, said in the program “Elite Forum” that if there is a war, the United States will first of all block or knock out the Rocket Forces of the CCP, especially the launching pads of the strategic nuclear missiles, including Longpo Naval Base, a pivotal base for nuclear submarines in southern Hainan island.
Therefore, these officers and soldiers of the Rocket Force are pretty scared because they will not be able to survive a surgical strike by the U.S. military on their bases. “The fear of war in the Rocket Force is severe, more than that in the army, navy, and air force,
“Caught in the fear, the Rocket Force’s roots are unstable.” Mr. Yao said.
Current affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan held a similar opinion that the Rocket Force has the motive to leak intelligence as it is an effective way to stop Mr. Xi from going to war, and it is also an effective way for the Rocket Force to save its life.
“The U.S. Army’s release of intelligence on the Rocket Force is a deterrent strategy that tells the CCP: ‘I know exactly the cards in your hands, you can’t afford to play to play this game, and you’re not going to win,’” Mr. Tang said in his July 13 program.
“It can imagine how strong this stimulus [from the U.S.] will be for Xi Jinping,” he said.