The United States believes that Chinese Defense Minister Li Changfu is under investigation and has been relieved of his duties. The Financial Times reported this based on what was reported by three American officials and two people connected to intelligence.
The case is a sign of potential further unrest in President Xi Jinping’s government following the dismissal of Foreign Minister Chen Gang. Lee, who was appointed in March, has been absent from official media coverage since August 29. If the case is confirmed, Lee would be the first Dragon official to be sanctioned by both the United States and China. The nature of the charges against Lee is unclear. However, as already reported by the Chinese Ministry of Defense, Beijing launched a corruption investigation against senior officials in its missile unit in July, dismissing Li Yuchao and Liu Guangbin, the chiefs of the missile force. A move that led to the decapitation of an elite squad created in 2016, also responsible for nuclear warheads, creating – as the Italian news agency has learned – discontent among the military. Less than a year into his third term, Xi surprisingly ousted Foreign Minister Chen Gang in July after disappearing from the public arena for a month. China did not provide any explanation for its removal. These sudden changes have fueled debate among international observers, who agree that China’s decision-making processes have become increasingly unclear and highly unpredictable. Li Changfu was appointed to the Central Military Commission in October 2022 and became Minister of Defense on March 12. There has been no news about the minister since he delivered a speech at the China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing on August 29, which was published by the ministry itself. In 2018, the US State Department added Li to the list of Chinese officials subject to sanctions, citing arms deals Beijing concluded with Moscow.
China called for the lifting of the sanctions imposed on it and refused to hold bilateral meetings for the defense ministers of the two countries.
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