Why China’s Communist Party expelled two former defense ministers


China’s expulsion of two former defense ministers from the Chinese Communist Party this week signaled a sharp escalation in Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s years-long effort to root out corruption and ensure total loyalty in the armed forces.

The announcement accused Wei Fenghe, defense minister from 2018 to 2023, and his successor, Li Shangfu, who was removed after only seven months in the job, of bribery as well as a crime considered far worse in China: political disloyalty.

The strongly worded statement, released by state broadcaster CCTV late Thursday, was a message to the rest of the People’s Liberation Army to clean up their act and get on board with Xi’s agenda, experts on Chinese politics said.

In a symbolic attempt to rekindle revolutionary zeal, Xi last week gathered top military brass in Yan’an, in rural Shaanxi province, the base for the Communist Party troops who fought Japanese invaders then overthrew the Nationalists in the Chinese civil war, which ended in 1949.

Xi told them there was “no place for corrupt elements in the military.” “The root cause of these problems lies in a lack of ideals and beliefs,” he said.

Earlier in June, he signed off on new audit regulations for the military.

Like similar rectification campaigns by Communist China’s founding leader Mao Zedong in the 1940s, Xi is warning troops that “you might as well admit what you did before I find it,” said Alex Payette, chief executive of Cercius Group, a Montreal-based consultancy focused on elite Chinese politics.

The removals were “a sign of what’s coming,” Payette said. “This was the first shot.”



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