The mystery surrounding China’s missing defence minister
Mao zedong used to say that political power grows from the barrel of a gun. In other words, controlling the armed forces is key to any leader’s success.
Xi Jinping, China’s current supremo (and a keen student of Mao), appears to believe the same, having built his authority to a large extent on his sweeping overhaul of the People’s Liberation Army (pla) in the past decade.
Yet just as those changes were supposed to be bearing fruit, a broadening purge of the pla’s top ranks is calling into question its capacity to fight—and Mr Xi’s to lead.
The latest blow came with reports on September 14th and 15th that General Li Shangfu, who was appointed defence minister and state councillor (a senior role in China’s cabinet), in March, was recently detained for questioning.
General Li, who is 65, has not been seen in public for more than two weeks, and was suddenly pulled out of an annual meeting with Vietnamese defence leaders that was scheduled for September 7th and 8th. Chinese authorities blamed a “health condition”.