Wednesday, May 29, 2024

China’s Defense Minister missing for weeks, skipped Vietnam meeting

Immigration News

Fidel Rahmati
Fidel Rahmati
Fidai Rahmati is the editor and content writer for Khaama Press. You may follow him at Twitter @FidelRahmati

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu abruptly cancelled a meeting with Vietnamese defence leaders last week, as reported by Reuters. This move raised concerns about his extended absence from the public eye, which has stretched beyond two weeks.

Li, aged 65, was scheduled to participate in an annual defence cooperation conference hosted by Vietnam along its border with China on September 7-8. However, the meeting was postponed when Beijing informed Hanoi shortly before the event that the minister could not attend due to a reported “health condition,” according to two Vietnamese officials.

Reuters is reporting the unexpected delay of the meeting and China’s stated reasons for the first time. Requests for comments from China’s State Council Information Office, defence ministry, and foreign ministry still need to be answered, and there has been no response from the Vietnamese embassy in Beijing as of Thursday evening.

Li’s sudden trip cancellation comes on the heels of China’s unexplained replacement of Foreign Minister Qin Gang in July, who had been absent from public view for an extended period. It also follows recent leadership changes within the People’s Liberation Army’s elite Rocket Force, raising concerns about China’s leadership decision-making.

Qin Gang’s swift rise in the Communist Party, attributed to his proximity to President Xi Jinping, made his sudden removal after seven months surprising. Initially, officials cited health reasons for his absence. Li, appointed in March, holds significant diplomatic importance as one of China’s five State Councillors, akin to Qin’s stature.

Li’s most recent public appearance was in Beijing on August 29, where he delivered a keynote address at a security forum involving African nations. Before this, he engaged in significant diplomatic meetings during visits to Russia and Belarus. China’s defence minister primarily handles defence diplomacy and lacks authority over combat forces.

Consequently, he maintains a lower public profile compared to the foreign minister, who enjoys more frequent coverage in state media, as reported by Reuters.

Born in February 1958, Li Shangfu is the son of a high-ranking PLA commander with a notable military background, having survived the Long March and served in the Korean War. He graduated from the PLA’s National University of Defense Technology in 1982, earning a master’s degree in engineering.

For over 30 years, he served at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. In 2016, Li became deputy commander of the Strategic Support Force, responsible for advancing space and cyber warfare capabilities. In the subsequent year, he assumed leadership of the military’s procurement unit.

Appointed as defence minister in March, Li is widely seen as a staunch supporter of President Xi Jinping. Despite his general rank, the role primarily focuses on defence diplomacy, drawing significant attention to Li’s participation in the June Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

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