Defense minister: Xi Jinping’s global upheavals raise concerns about China’s diplomacy

BEIJING: The death of China’s defense minister is the latest in a series of upheavals in the country’s top ranks, fueling uncertainty about the president. Xi JinpingThe internal security control of the rule of law prompts international involvement.
Diplomats and analysts say the growing unpredictability could affect the confidence other countries have in the leadership of the world’s second-largest economy.
Defense Minister Li ShangfuThe man, who has missed at least one meeting with a foreign representative since he was last seen in late August, is under investigation in a corruption probe into military procurement, Reuters reported on Friday.
Newly appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang disappeared with little explanation in July in a sudden shake-up of the military’s elite rocket force, which oversees China’s nuclear arsenal.
As China’s supreme leader Xi has focused inward, he caused concern among foreign diplomats by skipping a 20-member summit in India this month, the first time he has avoided a gathering of world leaders in his decade in power.
Faced with growing uncertainties, some diplomats and analysts have called for a hard look at the true nature of the Xi regime.
„Clear assessments are needed — it’s not just a question of whether China is a partner or a competitor, it’s a source of economic, political and military risk,” said Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official. Scholar at the National University of Singapore.
The lack of transparency surrounding the changes, which made various explanations plausible, „feeds into the crisis of confidence that is developing around China,” Thompson said.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Proximity is not patronage
Regarding the disappearance and investigation of Defense Minister Li, a ministry spokesman told reporters on Friday that he was not aware of the situation. The State Council and the Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Since his appointment in March, Li has been the public face of China’s expanded military diplomacy, raising concerns about U.S. military actions during a high-level security conference in June and visiting Russia and Belarus in August.
He was expected to host an international security meeting in Beijing in October People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at a meeting of regional security chiefs in Jakarta in November.
As corruption has long permeated China’s military and state institutions, some analysts and diplomats believe Xi’s anti-corruption crackdown represents a political purge. Commonwealth Party.
„Whatever the reason…the sense that this could continue to happen will impact foreign actors’ confidence in engaging with their Chinese counterparts,” said Helena Legarda, lead analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.
Li’s rise is unusual because of its speed and reach among Xi’s hand-picked elites.
„It’s very sudden and opaque. What we can see now is that Xi’s patronage in the world is nowhere near equal,” said Alexander Neal, a Singapore-based security analyst.
Continuity risk
Although not in a direct command post, Li serves on Xi’s seven-member Central Military Commission and is one of China’s five state councilors, a cabinet position rather than regular ministers. Some scholars believe he is close to General Zhang Yuxia, who sits above him on the commission and is Xi’s closest ally in the PLA.
Li, sanctioned by Washington in 2018 for an arms deal with Russia, skipped a meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in June.
Austin and other US officials are keen to resume high-level talks between the two militaries as regional tensions roll. But Beijing counters that Washington should be less assertive in the Asia-Pacific.
Regional Diplomats Deeper Chinese military diplomacy is vital, especially as China increasingly deploys forces around Taiwan — a democratically ruled island — and across disputed areas of the East and South China Seas, especially with the United States and other powers.
If Li’s fate „reflects Xi’s increasingly inward focus, it does not bode well for those who want greater transparency and communication with China’s military,” said one Asian diplomat.
As the PLA has an unprecedented level of military engagement with Southeast Asian forces this year, the recent rapid changes in Beijing „are fueling speculation and some concerns about policy continuity,” said Jah Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore.
„A shake-up of the military at this time will draw attention to the potential risk of accidents, escalation and crises,” Chong said, „as the PLA has increased its activities near Taiwan and the East China Sea, as well as increased paramilitary activity in the South China Sea.”

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