Questions swirl around Xi’s motives after a second top minister disappears in China

© Roslan Rahman, AFP

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu has not been seen in public for more than two weeks. The disappearance of this top official close to President Xi Jinping comes two months after that of now-former foreign affairs minister Qin Gang, and follows the dismissal of a pair of influential military generals. For some observers, Li's vanishing is likely linked to corruption, while others see it as a sign of intense political battles hidden from outside eyes.

Where is Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu? The top military official has not been heard from in more than two weeks, as noted by the Financial Times in an article published on Friday.

The general last appeared in public at the third China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing on August 29. Li had not left China since a trip to Moscow and Minsk earlier that month.

Beijing is keeping quiet about the disappearance. The only official clue emerged when Vietnamese authorities said that Li’s ministry last week cancelled his trip to Hanoi for “health reasons”.

But sources in Washington offered a different explanation. Speaking to the Financial Times on condition of anonymity, several US officials said that Li could be the target of a corruption investigation, which could have prompted Chinese authorities to discreetly remove the defence minister from his post just six months after his appointment by President Xi.

Beijing seems to have undertaken a summer clean-up in the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

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