Xi Jinping has launched a new campaign to tighten party discipline and root out corruption in the military, a sign that the Chinese leader’s decade-long effort to impose tight personal control over the military has failed.

At two high-level meetings in Beijing this month, Xi Jinping told military leaders that they must “focus on solving outstanding problems that party organizations at all levels have in implementing the party’s absolute leadership over the military.”

China’s top military leadership body, the Central Military Commission, chaired by Xi Jinping, this month called for the establishment of a “military integrity risk early warning mechanism” and announced an investigation into corruption in equipment procurement over the past six years.

Amid a renewed campaign to enforce party discipline, several senior officers in the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s nuclear and conventional missile arsenals, disappeared from public view – usually a signal of ongoing investigations. Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who was replaced last week by his predecessor Wang Yi, has not made a public commitment for a month.

Late last month, Xi Jinping’s official report on promotions to senior PLA generals did not mention the name of People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force Commander Li Yuchao, who had been expected to attend the event. A person who received reports of a summer promotion ceremony for Rocket Force generals said Li also missed that event, a situation that PLA experts called “very abnormal.”

The status of about 10 current and former Rocket Force officials, including Li and his deputy Liu Guangbin, is unclear, according to Cercius, a Canadian consulting firm that tracks China’s elite politics.

“It is likely that some, if not all, including current and former commanders, were caught due to discipline or corruption,” said Rod Lee, research director of the China Aerospace Research Institute at the U.S. Air University and a renowned expert. About the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force .

During the 2019 Beijing military parade, military vehicles carrying DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles flew over Tiananmen Square
An intercontinental ballistic missile displayed during a 2019 military parade in Beijing.The Rocket Force is one of the most strategically important units of the People’s Liberation Army © Jason Lee/Reuters

Several current and former Rocket Force officers, including Li Yuchao and his deputy Liu, have become targets of the investigation, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday. The investigation has not been officially announced, and the Financial Times was unable to independently confirm the targets of the Rocket Force investigation.

But Sethius pointed to the detention and arrest late last year of low-level officials with ties to the Rocket Force as evidence of a broader investigation. Typically, senior cadres are arrested for corruption months after junior officials are investigated.

In early June, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Communist Party’s powerful internal watchdog, announced that more than 39 senior military and political cadres had been arrested since the party’s 20th National Congress last October, but did not release the names of all of them. Those facing prosecution.

Led by Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, the anti-corruption campaign has achieved the dual goals of eliminating political opponents and punishing corruption. Since 2012, nearly 5 million lower-level officials and thousands of high-level “tiger” officials, as well as executives in the technology, financial and energy industries, and even China’s own anti-corruption watchdog have been arrested.

It’s unclear whether Xi’s renewed focus on the military is motivated by a specific case or larger concerns about political loyalty. The Rocket Force is one of the PLA’s most strategically important services, responsible for China’s rapidly expanding land-based nuclear deterrent and missile systems critical to a potential attack on Taiwan, as well as efforts to deny U.S. forces access and freedom of movement in the western region. Pacific Ocean.

Two senior foreign government officials familiar with the intelligence said the leader of the Rocket Force was under investigation for leaking military information.

“The trigger is that we, outside of China, now have a fairly detailed understanding of the structure of the Rocket Force,” one official said. “It’s a leak.”

Philip Saunders, director of the Center for Military Studies, said that one of Xi Jinping’s top targets after taking power was the military, which he believes has begun to decline and has broken away from the control of the Communist Party. The reform is to maintain authority over the military. China Military Studies, National Defense University. Two former Central Military Commission vice-chairmen, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, were indicted on corruption charges in 2014.

“Ten years have passed, a new generation of leaders has emerged, and some of the anti-corruption fears have dissipated,” Sanders said. “There is a need to regularly re-emphasize the anti-corruption campaign and re-emphasize the theme of loyalty to the party in politics.”

Ahead of the People’s Liberation Army Day on August 1, which marks the founding of the Communist Party of China’s military, state media published a series of articles advising cadres to “strengthen military management.”

Lyle Morris, a senior fellow at the China Analysis Center at the Asia Society Policy Institute and former China country director at Asia Society, said: “For them to talk about these issues again is a hint that absolute loyalty to the party has not yet been achieved.” U.S. Defense Secretary office. “Xi Jinping has consolidated control over the People’s Liberation Army in an unprecedented way. But that doesn’t mean it’s done.”

Over the past decade, Xi Jinping has placed military watchdogs such as the audit bureau and the Commission for Discipline Inspection directly under the Central Military Commission to prevent collusion with other departments, revitalized the military’s party apparatus, and instituted a series of policies aimed at limiting commanders’ room for maneuver. regulations. corruption.

But most importantly, he centralized control of the military in his own hands, elevated the power of the chairman of the Central Military Commission and enshrined the changes in the Communist Party’s charter.

Some experts say the latest survey shows the reforms are failing.

“Obviously, there are some unresolved issues in the selection of Rocket Force leaders. Because Xi Jinping hand-picked these people, his leadership has been compromised,” said Andrew Yang, Taiwan’s former defense minister and a senior analyst with the People’s Liberation Army. “He must now defuse the negative impact on the military.”

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