In an unexpected move, China’s leadership underwent a significant reshuffle with the removal of Li Shangfu from his positions as Defence Minister and State Councillor. The decision, announced by state news agency Xinhua, was made without providing any explanation, leaving both domestic and international observers puzzled.
This abrupt change marks the second leadership shake-up since President Xi Jinping began his unprecedented third term last October. Earlier this year, former Foreign Minister Qin Gang was replaced by his predecessor, Wang Yi, following a similarly unexplained withdrawal from public engagements.
Li Shangfu’s unexplained absence from the public eye had fueled speculation about his fate, especially since he is under US sanctions related to overseeing weapon purchases from Russia. These sanctions have barred him from entering the United States, and in response, China severed military contacts with the US, largely in protest of Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan.
Li Shangfu, aged 65, not only served as the Defence Minister but was also the public face of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). He was a member of the Central Military Commission, which is the PLA’s highest governing body. Within this Commission, he held a significant position, ranking only behind its Chairman, Xi Jinping, and the Vice-Chairmen, Zhang Youxia and He Weidong.
This sudden removal of Li Shangfu coincides with a critical moment, as a Pentagon delegation is due to arrive in Beijing for a regional security forum in the coming days. The timing of this leadership change raises questions about how it might impact discussions between the two nations, particularly regarding regional security and military engagement.
President Xi Jinping had previously set an ambitious goal for the PLA to become a world-leading fighting force by 2049, marking China’s aspirations to strengthen its military capabilities on the global stage.
As of now, no replacement for Li Shangfu has been officially announced, leaving the public and international community in anticipation of what this unexpected change in leadership might mean for China’s defense and foreign policy strategies in the foreseeable future.
Sources By Agencies