China did not say why the previous defense minister, Li Shangfu, was removed from office in October after being absent from public view for two months.

But U.S. officials say Li probably was caught up in an investigation into bid rigging and lax oversight during the five years he was in charge of the Equipment Development Department, which is tasked with improving China’s military technology. High-ranking officials overseeing the rocket force that manages China’s nuclear arsenal were also replaced without warning in August.

Of the nine senior military officials who were kicked out of the National People’s Congress on Friday, all appeared to have direct or indirect connections to Li.

Some had worked in the Equipment Development Department under Li from 2017 to 2022; others were in the rocket force or space program.

“Something major must have occurred to precipitate this kind of purge,” most likely a major corruption scandal or intel leak, Lyle Morris, a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.


The Chinese military's recent high-level reshuffle involved the replacement of a dozen generals and senior executives from state-run military enterprises. Admiral Dong Jun, the former head of the Chinese navy, was appointed as defense minister, succeeding Li Shangfu, who was removed from office in October. The reshuffle is part of President Xi Jinping's ongoing efforts to combat corruption within the military and prioritize maritime power in the context of China's military modernization program. My question is when was the last time there was a large purge in the Chinese military?

I know Xi Jinping has led anti-corruption campaigns since coming to power in 2012, emphasizing the need to tackle corruption within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and government institutions, but I don't remember anything of this scale within the military.

1 Answer 1



When was the last time there was a large purge in the Chinese military?

There is one happening now.

China's military purge deepens, Dec 31, 2023

Nine Chinese generals and three Chinese defense technology officials were removed from a top Chinese Communist Party advisory body late last week, according to Chinese state media.

Chinese military purge exposes weakness, could widen. As for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s hallmark anti-corruption campaign, It's funny how Xi Jinping has consolidated power and became the most powerful Chinese leader for life since Mao; while conducting these vast ongoing "corruption campaigns". Makes one wonder if that is actually the motivation for the anti-corruption efforts. To eliminate anyone who can stand against him.

China Launches New Wave of Purges Against Key Defense Industry Leaders

As of 2023, approximately 2.3 million government officials have been prosecuted under Xi's anti corruption campaign including over 120 high-ranking officials, including about a dozen high-ranking military officers, several senior executives of state-owned companies, and five national leaders.

Anti-corruption campaign under Xi Jinping

As China's economy continues to decline it is thought that the current "anti-corruption" efforts against some of China's most prominent leaders is an attempt to ward off any effort to remove President Xi from power.

Chinese rulers have long used campaigns against corruption to sideline rivals and consolidate power. Xi Jinping is increasingly tying his authority to a new variation: a purge that never ends.

  • Related (maybe the purge had some very understandable reasons that weren't just political): "US Intelligence Shows Flawed China Missiles Led Xi to Purge Army. China missiles filled with water, not fuel …vast fields of missile silos in western China with lids that don’t function in a way that would allow the missiles to launch effectively" bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-06/…
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 8 at 22:23

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