[Fox News] China’s Xi Jinping purges nuclear missile command amid alleged corruption probe

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has pursued a shakeup of his military command, including two of the country’s top generals who oversee the nuclear arsenal, following a corruption probe.

“We need to push forward the party’s strict discipline and anti-corruption efforts to a deeper level,” Xi said, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The Central Military Commission’s anti-corruption unit opened investigations into the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force Li Yuchao and his former deputies. 

The Rocket Force, established in 2016, operates China’s formidable arsenal of short-, medium- and long-range missiles, including those capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The force has a number of bases located near the Taiwan Strait.

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Due to the probe, Xi has removed Li and his deputies Zhang Zhenzhong and Liu Guangbin and replaced them with former Navy deputy commander Wang Houbin. Xi also appointed Xu Xisheng, formerly of the Southern Theatre Command, to become the new political commissar of the Rocket Force.

Investigators allegedly arrested Li and his deputies as part of the investigation, but no official body has confirmed these reports. The SCMP reported that an unnamed source alleged that the commander and his deputies had grown “immoral” since taking their posts, which provided an opportunity to monetize their privileged positions. 

The Telegraph labeled the anti-corruption push as an effort to ensure the PLA’s loyalty to Xi and his party. Xi has pursued anti-corruption efforts against targets both in high- and low-ranking positions across the finance, energy, sports and business sectors in China. 

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The move against the Rocket Force command could have started as a result of suspiciously accurate understandings of the Rocket Force’s structure, prompting an investigation of the leadership, The Guardian reported. 

The procurement office for the Chinese military last week issued a call for information about possible corruption in contracts dating back to 2017, The New York Times reported. 

The new appointments, with both men taking the rank of lieutenant general, coincided with the anniversary of the PLA’s founding on August 1, with Xi announcing the appointments during a ceremony at the commission’s headquarters in Beijing, the BBC reported. 

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The military command shake-up follows the replacement of China’s foreign minister Qin Gang with his predecessor Wang Yi, which occurred following a month-long absence from public commitments. 

China’s foreign ministry said Qin suffered unspecified health problems. His removal occurs after just seven months on the job, during which officials appeared to treat him as a rising star in the party. 

Yi’s reappointment prompted a fresh approach from the U.S. for a formal visit to Washington, which State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said officials “expect to happen.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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