According to state media, China has made significant changes to its top leadership by removing its defence minister, Li Shangfu, and ex-foreign minister Qin Gang from the cabinet.
The announcement was made following several months of rumors regarding the country’s cabinet. This included uncertainty surrounding Qin’s sudden dismissal from office in July without any explanation, as well as Li’s extended absence from the public eye.
According to experts, both Qin and Li were personally chosen by President Xi Jinping for their positions.
On Tuesday evening, the state-run news channel CCTV reported the dismissals of the ministers without explaining the reasons behind their downfall.
There was no announcement for a replacement for Li as the defense minister.
Earlier, there were reports stating that the US government suspected Li of being under investigation and had removed him from his ministerial responsibilities. However, China has declined to discuss the situation.
In August, Li visited Russia to participate in a security conference near Moscow on the 15th. On the 17th, the Belarusian government shared photos of Li meeting with their president, Alexander Lukashenko, in Minsk. However, he has not been seen in public since then.
The fact that Li’s removal has been confirmed raises concerns about who will serve as the host for the upcoming Xiangshan forum, a regional security dialogue for China. The forum is expected to have representatives from the US Department of Defense in attendance.
On Tuesday, experts stated that the recent announcement has heightened uncertainty regarding China’s top leadership.
Neil Thomas, Chinese politics fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said the recent upheaval “hints at severe deficiencies in the vetting process for top officials at the 20th party congress last year, possibly due to lower-level officials not wanting to push back against Xi’s preferred candidates”.
Thomas stated that the elimination of Li and Qin is improbable to greatly diminish Xi’s political power, as they were not considered part of his core group.
Their cleansing serves as a reminder to other officials of the significance of maintaining Xi’s approval.
In addition to being dismissed as defence minister, Li has also been relieved of his role on the state council, which is China’s cabinet.
Qin, who was ousted from his role as foreign minister by the leading legislative body in Beijing after only 207 days, has now been additionally dismissed from his cabinet position.
Wang Yi, a seasoned diplomat who previously held the position of foreign minister, took over his role. In the Chinese government hierarchy, Wang Yi held a higher rank than Qin.
On Tuesday, CCTV reported that Wang Zhigang, the minister of science and technology, and Liu Kun, the finance minister, were both relieved of their duties.
The current party secretary of the ministry of science and technology, Yin Hejun, and the party secretary of the finance ministry, Lan Fo’an, will take over their positions.
According to Adam Ni, the creator of the China Neican newsletter, the firings demonstrate the influence of elite politics.
The issue of unstable leadership persists despite Xi’s solidification of his supreme authority,” he stated, noting that most of those below Xi are prone to sudden loss of power.
Ni stated that they are able to be selected and also able to be discarded.