BEIJING: In another major shakeup that is raising eyebrows worldwide, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has installed former deputy naval chief Wang Houbin and party central committee member Xu Xisheng as the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Rocket Force unit heads.
Former Rocket Force boss, General Li Yuchao and his deputy have not been seen in public for months.
The reshuffling comes days after former Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang disappeared from the public eye and was not seen since June eventually replacing him with his predecessor Wang Yi late last month.
Qin Gang was appointed last December as a top diplomat of the country after he was serving as a Chinese ambassador to the US.
In most of the recent official meetings and high-profile engagements, he was not seen including the foreign minister’s meeting of ASEAN.
“The latest purge is significant… [as] China is undertaking one of the most profound changes in nuclear strategy in decades,” said Lyle Morris, a foreign policy and national security fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
“[President] Xi [Jinping] has consolidated control of the PLA in unprecedented ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s complete. Xi is still worried about corruption in the ranks and has signalled that absolute loyalty to the [party] has not yet been achieved,” he said.
President Xi is also chairman of China’s top military command, the Central Military Commission.
At a meeting late last month, Xi stressed the need to focus efforts on “addressing prominent issues faced by party organisations at all levels, in aspects such as maintaining the party’s absolute leadership over the military”, according to Chinese media.
South China Morning Post reported last week that the commission’s anti-corruption arm had launched an investigation into the two men, as well as Gen Li’s former deputy Zhang Zhenzhong.
The new appointments of the chiefs also came when the country is to celebrate the 96th anniversary of the PLA’s founding on 1 August.
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