The United States believes that the Chinese Defense Minister is under investigation by Beijing

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The US government believes Chinese Defense Minister Li Changfu has been placed under investigation in the latest sign of unrest among members of Beijing’s military and foreign policy elite.

Three US officials and two people familiar with the intelligence said the United States had concluded that Lee, who had not appeared in public in more than two weeks, had been stripped of his responsibilities as defense minister.

The move comes two months after Chinese President Xi Jinping fired two top generals in the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force, which oversees China’s rapidly expanding arsenal of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

The investigation into Li also follows the disappearance of Chen Gang, who was ousted as China’s foreign minister in July.

The people briefed on the intelligence did not say what led the Biden administration to conclude that Lee was being investigated. The White House did not comment. The Chinese embassy in the United States declined to comment.

On Thursday, Reuters quoted Vietnamese officials as saying that Ly suddenly canceled a meeting last week due to his “health condition.” At one point in the run-up to Chen’s ouster, China’s Foreign Ministry explained his mysterious absence from official events as health-related.

The Trump administration in 2018 imposed sanctions on Lee in connection with China’s purchase of Russian weapons when he headed the People’s Liberation Army’s main arms procurement and development department.

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China refused to arrange any meeting between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Li while Washington maintained sanctions on the general, a situation that worsened already poor bilateral military relations.

Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, last week raised speculation about Lee when he met Published on XTwitter previously said that the Chinese government “now resembles an Agatha Christie novel.” and then there Were None”.

“First, Foreign Minister Chen Gang disappeared, then the leaders of the missile force disappeared, and now Defense Minister Li Changfu has not appeared in public for two weeks,” he wrote with the hashtag #MysteryInBeijingBuilding.

The investigation into Li raises questions about the effectiveness of the anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi, who serves as chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, against China’s armed forces.

“If the dismissal of the Defense Minister and the leaders of the missile force was due to corruption, it indicates that Xi’s vetting process for selecting senior officials is deeply flawed and indicates that corruption is common within the regime despite Xi’s decade-long campaign against it,” he said. Dennis Wilder, a former CIA expert on the People’s Liberation Army.

Wilder added that the Equipment Administration, formerly called the General Armaments Administration, has a long history of having “the worst corruption” within the Chinese military.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said Li’s dismissal could help US-China military relations by removing an obstacle that China insisted would prevent any meeting with Austin.

“I don’t think this calls into question Xi Jinping’s control over the military, but it should serve as a reminder of how corrupt the system is,” Glaser added.

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