Turmoil in China’s Military Leads Xi to Redouble Quest for Control

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In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has positioned himself as a powerful figure fighting against corruption and disloyalty within the Communist Party. His efforts to clean up the notoriously corrupt military leadership have been a central part of his agenda. However, recent shake-ups within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) suggest that his anti-corruption campaign may be falling short. Last week, two top generals in the Rocket Force, the branch of the military responsible for managing conventional and nuclear missiles, were abruptly replaced. This unexpected move has raised suspicions of graft or other misconduct within the military leadership.

Experts believe that this shake-up indicates a deep-rooted problem related to discipline and corruption within the system. It is seen as a setback for President Xi, who has taken pride in turning the Communist Party and the military into unquestioning enforcers of his rule. This recent development has the potential to undermine his efforts to maintain loyalty and control within his administration.

President Xi has implemented various strategies to prevent officials from straying, including constant inspections, loyalty campaigns, and dismissals/arrests. While these measures have been successful in some instances, the recent misconduct allegations suggest that the risk of corruption and disloyalty persists.

When President Xi came to power in 2012, one of his priorities was to tackle corruption within the PLA. His swift actions led to the conviction of dozens of senior officers and the implementation of new rules to consolidate his power. As a result, today, virtually all members of China’s military elite owe their rise to President Xi, giving him a strong power base within the military.

The Rocket Force, in particular, has been a product of President Xi’s support. He elevated it from the former missile corps in 2015, investing significant time, resources, and policy support. The recent shake-up within this branch suggests that there may be significant underlying reasons for the changes, possibly related to allegations of corruption in the midst of China’s nuclear expansion.

Experts believe that the fallen generals within the Rocket Force may be accused of siphoning funds from the force’s expansion. However, given the secrecy surrounding China’s military affairs, it is challenging to determine the exact reasons for their removal. President Xi has warned that economic corruption and political disloyalty are interconnected, suggesting that he is willing to purge even high-ranking officers to defend his authority.

The recent shake-up within the Rocket Force highlights the continuing challenge President Xi faces in maintaining discipline and upholding his anti-corruption agenda. The demands for loyalty within the military will likely intensify, and further efforts to instill loyalty among troops can be expected. However, given the sensitive nature of China’s nuclear weapons program, details about the fallen officers are likely to remain undisclosed.

While the recent developments may tarnish President Xi’s image as a powerful anti-corruption figure, his actions demonstrate his determination to root out corruption and ensure loyalty within his administration. The message to the military is clear: no one, regardless of rank, is beyond scrutiny when it comes to discipline and corruption.

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