The significance of China’s exclusion of nine military officials from its parliament

We can analyze China's move to exclude nine military officials from its parliament and its motives, especially since among them are four generals from the unit responsible for strategic missiles.

We can analyze China’s move to exclude nine military officials from its parliament and its motives, especially since among them are four generals from the unit responsible for strategic missiles, in a broad reshuffle that comes in the wake of the appointment of a new defense minister in China.  While the Chinese authorities have not officially revealed an explanation of the reasons for the decision to dismiss and exclude 9 of their military officials, after a session of the Central Committee of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, according to my belief, it appears as if the senior positions in the Chinese army are witnessing a process of restructuring since the last public appearance of former Defense Minister “Li Changfu” at the end of last August 2023, who was appointed Minister of Defense in March and then officially dismissed in October. The Chinese government then appointed General Dong Jun as the new Minister of Defense after he had previously commanded the Chinese Navy for a period. The appointment of the new Chinese Minister of Defense “Dong Jun”, comes after a change at the head of the unit responsible for strategic missiles in the Chinese army, specifically nuclear ones. Knowing that the Chinese Ministry of Defense announced during July 2023 the appointment of a new management for this nuclear unit without explaining the reasons behind this change, and the official Chinese media and newspapers may have urgently indicated the existence of an investigation into corruption cases related to the former head of the military nuclear unit.  This is taking into account that the nine Chinese officials who were excluded from the National People’s Congress, which serves as the Chinese parliament, were in this military nuclear unit as representatives not elected by the Chinese People’s Congress or the Chinese Parliament.

 Since Chinese President “Xi Jinping” took power, the Chinese army has been one of the main targets of his wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign, and his anti-corruption campaign has targeted hundreds of thousands of officials at all levels.  Beijing was publicly proud that its war against corruption had brought down more than 100 senior generals within the Chinese army.

 These structural changes in the Chinese army come after Chinese President  “Xi Jinping” emphasized strengthening the capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and preparing for military action in conjunction with the fight against corruption in all ranks, units and centers of the Chinese army, without any exception.  With the announcement of an important official visit by Chinese President  “Xi Jinping”, during which he inspected the Joint Operations Center of the Command of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, during which China Central Television reported President Xi Jinping’s statements to the leaders of the Chinese army, and his emphasis on strengthening comprehensive training for the armed forces to ensure their readiness for combat operations and to combat any operations or suspicions of corruption. With Chinese President  “Xi Jinping” confirming, in his capacity as Secretary-General of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Communist Party, which is responsible for ensuring the efficiency of the Chinese army and raising its combat capabilities, that the leadership of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army must enhance innovation in the Chinese army and fight nepotism, loyalty and corruption, while forming mechanisms for transparency.  Reliable, so that Chinese forces can participate in battles with high efficiency.  

 According to my understanding and reading of the general scene within the Chinese army, the (Anti-Graft Authority of the Chinese Central Military Commission), which is worked as a militarily Committee, known as the (CMC). It began investigating several generals in the Chinese army some time ago on corruption charges, some of whom are military experts who developed the nuclear and missile arsenal in the Chinese army. Knowing that all of these detainees are considered senior former and current leaders in the missile force, especially the nuclear and strategic ones, directly affiliated with the Chinese army, and they are also influential over the nuclear arsenal in particular.

 The body responsible for the decision to investigate and dismiss the Chinese army is the Anti-Graft Authority, affiliated with the Central Military Commission of the ruling Communist Party in China. It acts as a Discipline Inspection Committee within the Chinese army, which investigates alongside the Office of  Its audit, which began first with the investigation of “Li Yuchao”, the third commander of the missile force, which actually began work during a comprehensive reform of the Chinese army in 2015, was then followed by the investigation of the nine most important commanders of the Chinese army who were removed from their positions, and they are:  (Zhang Zhenzhong and Liu Guangbin), who are former and current deputies of the dismissed General “Li Yuchao”.

  Knowing that, until recently, there were no indications within the Chinese army about any investigations into the former generals dismissed on corruption charges, but the investigation began with them last March 2023. General “Li Yuchao” is considered the highest-ranking Chinese general revealed in the recent investigation into corruption issues related to him within the military and strategic nuclear unit, taking into account also that “Li Yuchao” is considered one of the most powerful generals in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  He was promoted to membership in the Central Military Committee of the ruling Communist Party, headed by Chinese President “Xi Jinping”, in his capacity as its Secretary-General, in October 2023. It is the Supreme Military Central Committee, which consists primarily of 205 members in the senior ranks and leadership of the Chinese army.

 It must be noted that something very important is related to the fact that all the generals in the Chinese Army’s missile force had a good reputation before their promotion, but they were accused of corruption after they moved directly to work at the headquarters in the capital, Beijing, where they had greater opportunities to deal with defense-related companies. These nine Chinese generals, dismissed on corruption charges, all participated in significantly developing the Chinese nuclear arsenal, as air, land and sea delivery systems were modernized. But what frightens the military leadership in Beijing most is the concerns related to the safety of all strategic nuclear missiles, given the complex relations of the nine arrested internationally. What is most dangerous for the Chinese army is that a defect in this military nuclear system is considered a major risk. Because missile force is an important element in Beijing’s efforts to intensify military pressure on Taiwan and its American ally.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit