China: New Defense Minister and Sweep of Top Army Officials

In China, the military is undergoing a major reshuffle. Fratricidal struggles? Corruption? Suspicion of espionage? The opacity in the corridors of power is total. On Friday, Beijing ended the uncertainty that has lasted several months since the dismissal of Defense Minister Li Shangfu. A successor has finally been appointed. But as the world's largest military tries to establish itself as the dominant power in the region, the restructuring doesn't stop there.

Chinese soldiers' camp west of Chengdu, Sichuan province. (Photo: Reuters)

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Heads continue to roll in the army, and as usual, the ruling power remains silent without giving the slightest explanation for this purge that began with the disappearance of Defense Minister Li Shangfu last August.

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A day after the appointment of his replacement Dong Jun, who until now had been commander of the navy, Beijing announced the exclusion of nine military officials from its parliament, including four generals from a unit in charge of strategic missiles. An ultra-sensitive unit because it oversees China's nuclear weapons. Already last July, the authorities had appointed a new directorate. At the time, the media reported on a corruption investigation involving its former boss.

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Will the new Minister of Defense have a free hand to bring order to the ranks of the army? Dong Jun will probably have to settle for a purely representative role. In reality, only the chairman of the Central Military Commission controls and commands the country's armed forces – a role assumed by China's No. 1 Xi Jinping.

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  • China
  • Defense