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China steps up anti-corruption purge into PLA Rocket Forces

Chinese soldiers (Photo: IANS)

Controversy dogs the PLA Rocket Forces over charges of corruption as the current and the past leadership of the PLARF is under investigation. The Rocket Force has been in the limelight for the past many weeks over the reported suicide of its deputy commander Wu Guohua as well as other missing commanders.

In a report on July 28, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) says that the PLARF’s current commander, Li Yuchao, and a past and present deputy, Zhang Zhenzhong and Liu Guangbin are being investigated by the Central Military Commission (CMC)’s anti-graft body, the Commission for Discipline Inspection. SCMP says that the senior commanders have been taken away for investigations.

Along with investigation over corruption, suspicion surrounds the conduct of the current commander, Li’s son who is studying in the US. There are allegations that he has shared sensitive information with the US.

India Narrative had reported earlier about the problems in the Rocket Force as well as the mysterious disappearance of the newly appointed foreign minister Qin Gang, who has now been officially relieved of his duties. The report had also mentioned that besides cleansing the PLARF of corruption, the Chinese government has also been fearing internal strife and an uprising in the PLA.

The PLA has been a major target of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive which has impacted dozens of senior officials in the military.

Chinese journalist Jennifer Zeng has reasoned that the anti-corruption drive has had a detrimental effect on the military and has resulted in demoralisation of the forces. She has even linked the problems in the PLARF to Xi’s increasing insecurity and perceived threats from the PLA after the failed coup in Moscow.

Xi had alluded, while taking over his third term in October 2022, that the country would build strong strategic deterrence – which many had understood as boosting China’s nuclear stockpile. There have been reports in the Western media over the last couple of years about China constructing nuclear missile silos in Gansu province to accommodate an increasing pile of nuclear weapons.

The PLARF is considered important as it maintains the nuclear warheads for China and has an important role in any possible offensive that Beijing may unleash on Taiwan – which it considers a part of the mainland. The top Chinese leadership has publicly threatened to take Taiwan by force.

A report in the Taipei Times has underlined how vital the PLARF is to China in relation to the tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

The PLARF had been moulded from the PLA Second Artillery Corps in 2015-2016 with Wei Fenghe as its commander, who later on rose to become the communist nation’s defence minister. The PLAFR has been upgrading the missile systems and is reportedly deploying additional missiles facing Taiwan and other nations in the event of hostilities with the island nation across the Taiwan Strait.