Chinese dictator Xi Jinping’s political purge of senior officials in the regime’s military and defense ministry has been capturing attention. He has removed select military leaders one after another, ostensibly because of corruption. But behind the scenes, many suspect that his actions are due to ongoing wars within the CCP between leadership factions, and these figures’ opposition to Mr. Xi’s policies and military strategies.
At least three of the six members of China’s Central Military Commission have been missing from the public eye. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) past trends suggest that those individuals were likely removed from their positions or are under the regime’s investigation.
CCP Defense Minister’s Disappearance
On Sept. 7, it was reported that Li Shangfu, the CCP’s Minister of National Defense, was under investigation on suspicion of corruption.
Mr. Xi reportedly announced at a meeting of the Central Military Commission on Sept. 4 that Mr. Li had been subjected to a disciplinary measure called “retention in custody.” Mr. Li himself was absent from the meeting. Mr. Li’s incident was reported by major U.S. media on Sept. 14 and 15.
Cai Shenkun, an independent commentator, said, “The purging of Li Shangfu implies that Xi Jinping has begun to purge those princelings who are the second generation of the CCP’s military leaders.” The princelings are the descendants of powerful CCP regime officials.
Such practices of nepotism are extremely common within the CCP’s political and military departments. However, recent events show that the trust and confidence between Mr. Xi and those regime officials are experiencing significant fractures.
Li Shangfu is the son of Li Shaozhu, a Red Army veteran and former military commander. In October 2022, Li Shangfu was promoted by Mr. Xi to be a member of the Central Military Commission during the 20th CCP Congress.
According to multiple sources, Li Shangfu was arrested and then implicated more than a dozen other senior officials of China’s General Armament Department. After the disappearance of Mr. Li, Zhang Youxia, the first vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, has not been seen for several days. His last appearance was on Sept. 8 when he accompanied Mr. Xi on an inspection of the military. Sources say that Mr. Zhang is currently under house arrest.
Disciplining the ‘Discipliner’
On Sept. 18, Zhang Shengmin, a member of the Central Military Commission and secretary of the Commission for Discipline Inspection, became implicated in Mr. Xi’s purge.
Mr. Zhang had been serving as the secretary of the Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Deputy Secretary of the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection at the same time. In other words, he was widely viewed as Mr. Xi’s most loyal military supervisor.
The Commission for Discipline Inspection in the Chinese military is an important department in the supervision of the military and is more independent than other departments. If Mr. Zhang, who is in charge of disciplinary inspection and supposedly trusted by Mr. Xi, is being purged, it would mean that there is significant instability within the CCP’s military.