Now it’s official: The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress has decided to remove Li Shangfu from his state positions as Defense Minister, State Councilor and member of the state’s Central Military Commission.
Former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who was deposed in July but retained his title as State Councilor, has also now lost his position as State Councilor. There is no official explanation as to why Li and Qin lost their jobs.
Both politicians, who were hand-picked by ruler Xi Jinping, disappeared from the scene for weeks after falling out of the ruler’s favor.
In Xi’s empire, positions are awarded based on loyalty
Even in democracies, ministers are fired. Such a step is accompanied by free media, there are statements from those affected and statements from political actors who have to do with the dismissal.
Not so in Xi’s empire: There, positions are awarded based on loyalty to the ruler and not on qualifications. In autocracies and dictatorships there is no free press or critical public.
The two politicians are not the only ones whom Xi has made disappear. World-renowned entrepreneur Jack Ma was removed after he dared to take a podium to criticize the economic policies of the ruling Communist Party.
And tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared after disclosing that she had been sexually harassed by CCP sports officials.
Anyone who becomes conspicuous will receive a visit from the corruption police
When China’s president wants to get rid of people who have become a nuisance to him and no longer seem loyal, he uses the “Central Commission for Discipline Inspection”.
This unit, also popularly known as the “corruption police,” is endowed with powers that could never exist in a constitutional state. It operates, so to speak, above, alongside or outside of the law.
This allows the CCDI to place suspects under house arrest or in prison for as long as they see fit. Xi has the corruption police prosecute not only party officials, but also “normal” citizens. The group is led by a member of the Politburo, whose relatives are among Xi’s closest and long-time confidants.
Those who fall into the clutches of the CCDI cannot hope for legal proceedings. And party members like Li and Qin are also removed from all positions according to internal party mechanisms. The last step is to dismiss her from the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The party apparatus and Xi remain silent about the reasons.
The rumor mill was churning in the case of Qin Gang, who was said to have had an affair with a state television presenter who had fallen out of favor with the party. However, there was no confirmation or explanation as to what such an affair might have to do with the Foreign Minister’s official business.
Xi’s actions are reminiscent of Mao’s “purges”
Even the most intimate China experts who have followed the party for decades say it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party.
In light of these events, some people remember the “purges” from the Mao era. Dictators become paranoid over time and find themselves persecuted and challenged at every turn.
The history of the CCP is one of such purges that extended beyond Mao’s death. His successor Deng Xiao-ping was removed from office and then reinstated several times. The same applies to Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun.
He fell out of favor with Mao and was later rehabilitated. The young Jinping then lost all privileges as a so-called “princeling,” as the offspring of the upper party caste were called, and was shipped to the countryside to toil there.
Under him, what happened in Mao’s time is being repeated. Not just because Xi recommends that his country’s unemployed youth go back to the countryside to experience “real life.”
But also because in the evening you can no longer be sure whether you will still be in office in the morning. A government based on erratically made decisions is unable to act in the long term.