(Bloomberg) -- Chinese leader Xi Jinping may be hurting the unity of his fighting forces with the recent purges of senior figures, according to a Taiwanese lawmaker who sits on a key security panel.
“We’ve been hearing a lot of stories about the military complaining about how Xi Jinping is cracking down,” said Lo Chih-cheng, a legislator for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and a member of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Xi’s moves mean that the People’s Liberation Army may not be “quite unified now,” he added.
The comments add to evidence that Xi’s mysterious approach to ousting officials is making China appear unstable and causing problems for his government. Taiwan is well placed to track those issues given its intelligence services focus on military and political activities in China, which sits some 100 miles across the Taiwan Strait and has pledged to bring Taiwan under control someday, by force if necessary.
The latest example of that upheaval is the unexplained disappearance of Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who was last seen in public more than three weeks ago. The US has intelligence suggesting Li, 65, has already been removed from his post.
See: Xi’s Purge of Handpicked Ministers Shatters Stability Image
Over the summer, China abruptly replaced the two most-senior leaders in the PLA’s Rocket Force, which manages the nation’s nuclear weapons. At the same time, the military launched an inquiry into corruption cases linked to procurement going back more than five years, roughly coinciding with Li’s tenure as head of the the equipment department.
Li is now under investigation for graft related to securing military equipment, Reuters has reported, citing a regional security official and three people in direct contact with the Chinese military.
The turbulence in Chinese officialdom started in late July when Xi shockingly removed Qin Gang as foreign minster after just seven months, the shortest tenure anyone in China has spent in that post. An investigation found that Qin had an affair while serving as China’s ambassador in Washington that could have endangered national security, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources.
As Xi’s mistrust of his officials grows, China’s system is showing signs of becoming paralyzed. One foreign executive in Beijing, who asked not to be identified, said Chinese officials now operate in fear, with everyone scared of Xi and isolated from each other.
Separately, Lo, the DPP lawmaker, criticized China’s recent stepped-up military activity around the island. This week, the PLA flew a record 103 warplanes around the island to show it was displeased with a visit by a pair of American officials.
Those flights included 40 planes crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait. China has been using such flights to blur the line the US drew in 1954 to wear down Taiwan’s much smaller military and cut the time that it has to react to any attack.
“When people talk about the status quo, I think it is somewhat misleading.” Lo said. “There is no status quo, or even worse China has created a new status quo.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in June that “the United States remains deeply committed to preserving the status quo,” and Group of Seven leaders made similar comments in May.
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