Light Wave


Communist Party shake-up: China removes top officials

By Jake Beardslee · October 24, 2023

In brief…

  • China has ousted top officials Li Shangfu and Qin Gang from Communist Party leadership
  • Li, the defense minister, and Qin, a former foreign minister, were stripped of titles as state councilors
  • Removals follow officials' unexplained disappearances, seen as part of Xi's crackdown on corruption
  • Dismissals end officials' political careers as Xi consolidates power within party ranks
China has ousted prominent Communist Party officials Li Shangfu and Qin Gang as part of President Xi Jinping's purge of the party leadership to consolidate power.  VOA News/Wikimedia

China has ousted two more top officials from the ruling Communist Party in the latest sign of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate power. Gen. Li Shangfu, defense minister, and Qin Gang, former foreign minister, were stripped of their titles as state councilors on Tuesday, according to state media.

Li’s removal comes two months after he disappeared from public view, sparking speculation about his fate. The aerospace engineer and military leader had not been seen since late August, with reports suggesting he was under investigation for corruption. Qin, once seen as a rising star and protégé of Xi, was fired three months ago under similarly mysterious circumstances.

No explanation was given by authorities, which is typical in China’s opaque system of governance. The decision came after a vote by top party lawmakers to leave Li’s minister position vacant. Although Li held the title of defense minister, his role was more ceremonial compared to the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Still, he was a prominent figure in Xi’s administration before vanishing.

Qin drew global attention as Xi’s foreign minister from 2021 to 2022, including high-stakes talks with the U.S. His replacement, Wang Yi, is in Washington this week to meet with top Biden officials, perhaps laying the groundwork for a Xi-Biden summit.

The removal of Li and Qin from Xi’s inner circle effectively ends their political careers. Their current whereabouts and whether they will be prosecuted is unknown. It reflects Xi’s ongoing purge of the party ranks and intolerance of perceived disloyalty as he consolidates control.