Chinese defense minister’s disappearance indicates power struggle, raises questions about CCP’s leadership

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Originally published by The Epoch Times

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Editor’s Note: This piece by Venus Upadhayaya features quotes by CSP Senior Fellow, Grant Newsham.

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has been missing for over two weeks. Experts told The Epoch Times that whatever may be the reason, the increasing trend of unexplained disappearances of top officials puts the leadership under heightened scrutiny and raises serious doubts about its credibility, and increases security threats for neighboring countries.

“The disappearance of China’s defense minister, the latest in a string of upheavals in the country’s top ranks, is stoking uncertainty about President Xi Jinping’s rule as an internal security clampdown trumps international engagement,” Nishakant Ojha, a New Delhi-based defense analyst who has formerly served in various Indian foreign missions, told The Epoch Times in an email.

While news agencies have quoted insider sources that Gen. Li is under investigation for corruption charges, his disappearance has been likened to former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, whose absence remains a mystery.

“First, there probably isn’t a single Chinese official at these levels who isn’t guilty of corruption. And even if there are a few ‘clean’ ones, as Beria (the Soviet secret police chief) said: ‘Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime,'” Grant Newsham, a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and retired U.S. Marine colonel, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Lavrentiy Beria was an influential secret police chief of Joseph Stalin. Mr. Newsham believes that “corruption” has been turned by Chinese leader Xi Jinping into a modern version of the Maoist-era “counter-revolutionary activities.”

“[Corruption is the] go-to or catch-all charge for getting rid of people and making it look like they were guilty of something,” Mr. Newsham wrote. “So I think it’s unlikely that it was because of ‘corruption’ that he got caught, and Xi is just cleaning out a corrupt official.”

In these circumstances, multiple causes could contribute to Mr. Xi’s paranoia and the eventual disappearance of Gen. Li. Mr. Newsham suspects it’s linked to the CCP leader’s worries resulting from a power struggle in a single-party totalitarian system.

“He might see opposition forming in some quarters—as he’s no doubt got plenty of enemies owing to his purging of rivals over the years,” wrote Newsham in an email.

“Or perhaps he wants to get ‘his team’ of totally pliant toadies and incompetents in place—who pose no threat to him and will follow orders—before he makes a move somewhere? Say, against Taiwan, India, Mongolia, Japan, etc.”

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