Chinese military purge exposes weakness, could widen


BEIJING, Dec – A sweeping purge of Chinese generals has weakened the People’s Liberation Army, exposing deep-rooted corruption that could take more time to fix and slow Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s military modernization drive amid geopolitical tensions, analysts say.
China’s top lawmakers ousted nine senior military officers from the national legislative body on Friday, state media reported, a step that typically precedes further punishment for wayward cadres. Many of these were from the Rocket Force – a key arm of the PLA overseeing tactical and nuclear missiles.
The purges are a setback for Xi who has pumped billions into buying and developing equipment as part of his modernising efforts to build a “world-class” military by 2050, with Beijing’s outsized defence budget growing at a faster pace than the economy for some years.
The recent downfall of generals and military equipment suppliers, however, has punctured some of this aura, and raised questions over whether there has been adequate oversight over these massive military investments as China vies with the United States in key areas, including Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Since Xi took power in 2012, he has embarked on a wide-ranging anti-corruption crackdown among Communist Party and government officials, with the PLA being one of its main targets.
The nine PLA generals removed from the legislature hailed from several military divisions; three were former commanders or vice commanders of the PLA Rocket Force; one a former Air Force chief and one a Navy commander responsible for the South China Sea. Four officers were responsible for equipment.
“It is a clear sign that they are being purged,” said Andrew Scobell, Distinguished Fellow for China at the United States Institute for Peace.