Concerns Mount over Absence of China’s Defence Minister

The recent absence of China’s defence minister, Li Shangfu, has raised questions and speculation about a possible corruption purge within the Chinese government. Li has not been seen in public for about two weeks and has reportedly missed several meetings, sparking concern among observers. The absence of top military officials, including foreign minister Qin Gang, in recent months has further fuelled rumors of a purge. The Chinese government has not provided much information on Li’s absence, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman claiming to be unaware of the situation. Li’s last public appearance was three weeks ago at a security forum in Beijing. While defence ministers being absent from the public view for a few weeks is not uncommon, the timing of Li’s absence, along with the axing of other military officials, has raised eyebrows. The speculation of a military corruption purge began in early August when two generals in China’s rocket forces were replaced, and the president of the army’s military court was also removed. The absence of Li and the other officials has led to comparisons to an Agatha Christie mystery and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The outspoken US envoy to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, has speculated on Li’s absence, suggesting that there may be a high unemployment rate within the Chinese government. Additionally, he raised concerns about the communication and crisis management capabilities of the Chinese system amid heightened military activity near Taiwan and tensions in the South China Sea. The absence of key officials during sensitive times has generated concerns about the stability of President Xi Jinping’s decisions, as well as the transparency of Chinese political leadership. Observers have noted that Li and Qin were both promoted by Xi, highlighting the ongoing issue of high-level corruption within the military. It is expected that further purges may take place as a response to these developments.