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The Mystery of Political Disappearances in China

China has become the stage for mysterious political drama with key figures disappearing from public view. Moreover, the Chinese government are officials providing cryptic explanations. This situation challenges China’s attempt to present itself as an appealing alternative to Western-style democracy. It is also raising concerns about the repressive autocratic nature of the regime.


The latest disappearance is that of China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu. He was a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general who took on the role just six months ago. Despite his high-profile position, Li has not been seen in public since August. The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s response of being unaware of the situation only deepens the mystery.

China's Defense Minister Li Shangfu, yet another missing official from China's Political scene.
China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu, yet another missing official from China’s Political scene. Photo| Courtesy

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US Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, has been frank in highlighting the peculiar developments. The string of disappearances, including high-ranking officials and military generals, paints a picture of political instability and lack of transparency. Especially given that China has a regime that portrays itself as stable and firmly led by President Xi Jinping.

The abrupt departures of officials, including former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, coupled with the firing of top generals in charge of China’s nuclear weapons, have raised eyebrows. The official explanation of health issues and dismissals due to “lifestyle issues” might not reveal the whole story.

China’s President, Xi Jinping. Photo| Courtesy

One possible explanation for the recent disruption is an anti-corruption campaign within the government. This is particularly within the graft-ridden military procurement sector. However, such campaigns can serve as a convenient excuse for political crackdowns, especially in the opaque political landscape of China.

This political hiccup appears to have affected President Xi’s engagement on the international stage, with his notable absence from major international events. The situation, compared against Xi’s recent consolidation of power, raises questions about the stability and control that he seeks to portray.

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China’s authoritarian regime has a history of “disappearances,” sending a clear message to anyone who becomes too prominent or powerful. This extends beyond government officials to prominent business figures and regime critics.


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