China removes defence minister Gen Li Shangfu in second cabinet rejig in months

President Xi Jingping has made anti-corruption drives a key part of his reform strategy

China's former defence minister Li Shangfu at the 20th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June 2023. Reuters
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China removed Gen Li Shangfu as defence minister on Tuesday, in the second dismissal of a senior figure in three months.

The announcement came after Gen Li dropped from public view two months ago. China had already replaced its former foreign minister, Qin Gang, and some senior generals.

Mr Qin was also stripped of his remaining role as state councillor by the country’s top legislative body, CCTV also reported on Tuesday. He was removed as foreign minister in July.

China's leading legislators, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, approved the removal of both men, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

No explanation was given for the removal. No replacement for Mr Li was appointed, leaving the country without a defence minister as it prepares to host foreign defence officials at the three-day Beijing Xiangshan Forum which begins on Sunday.

Reuters reported last month that Gen Li was under investigation for corruption related to equipment procurement and development.

President Xi Jinping has led an anti-corruption drive across government since coming to power in 2012 leading the disciplining of, by some estimates, more than three million Communist Party members.

Gen Li's removal could allow for high-level military talks with the US to resume after a suspension of more than a year. China refused US overtures for General Li to speak with American military leaders because of sanctions imposed on him during the Trump administration.

Updated: October 24, 2023, 2:46 PM