Li Shangfu, China’s defence minister, was officially fired two months after he vanished from public view. Neither the reason for his dismissal nor the identity of his replacement has been made public.
His dismissal comes after a number of high-ranking military officials were recently fired, including Qin Gang, who lost his position as foreign minister in July.
On Tuesday, Qin and Li were also dismissed from their posts on the State Council, which oversees provincial-level governments. The expulsion of both individuals was authorised by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, according to official broadcaster CCTV.
As China is ready to welcome international defence officials in Beijing this week, his removal leaves the country without a minister of defence.
Shangfu was the subject of an inquiry last month, according to Reuters, for alleged wrongdoing involving the development and purchase of technology.
On August 29, he was last seen in public at an African nations’ security meeting in Beijing. It was as recent as March when he took the position.
Gen Li, an aerospace engineer, ascended through the ranks of the Chinese political elite and military with ease. He started his career at a satellite and rocket launch station. As the chief of the military’s equipment development branch in 2018, he faced sanctions from the US government due to China’s acquisition of Russian combat aircraft and weaponry.
It was believed that the penalties were a source of contention for Gen Li, who declined to meet with his US colleague Lloyd Austin at a Singapore defence summit earlier this year.
Like Qin, who has already lost his previous official status, he was reportedly a favourite of President Xi Jinping. After only seven months in the position, Qin was dismissed as China’s foreign minister in July.
Qin’s dismissal from office was also without explanation, however the Wall Street Journal reported that he had an adulterous affair while serving as ambassador to the US. Soon after, there were rumours of a purge when two of the top officials overseeing the country’s nuclear weapons were changed.
The commander of the Rocket Force division of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), General Li Yuchao, and his deputy had “disappeared” for months prior to their official dismissal.