At least 70 arrested in China Rocket Force Scandal
Prolonged disappearance of ex Chinese foreign minister fuels suspicions of his execution for treason
The Chinese government’s investigation of China’s Rocket Force, which includes the country’s long-range nuclear missiles capable of hitting the US, has netted at least 70 people. While corruption is one problem plaguing the rocket force, another motive for this widening investigation is suspicion that generals in the rocket force leaked China’s missile secrets to the US.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, Putin disclosed to Xi that former Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang played a role in the leak of China’s missile secrets to the US, Asia Sentinel learned from several sources. Qin was sacked as foreign minister on July 25, Asia Sentinel reported.
He was last seen on June 25, while Lieutenant General Li Yuchao, then commander of China’s rocket force, was arrested around the same time, which strengthened suspicions that Qin was connected to the investigation of the rocket force, as Asia Sentinel reported on July 30.
“So far, we have been able to track down around 70 individuals who have been taken away within the larger frame of the Rocket Force investigation. As of yet, we believe, considering that procurement, and logistics are also involved, it is still too early to inquire about the results of the ongoing crackdown,” an analyst for Cercius Group, a Canadian geopolitical consulting firm, told Asia Sentinel.
The Chinese government takes its investigation of the rocket force very seriously, said the Cercius analyst. The rocket force will be the most needed force in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) should the Chinese government decide to attack Taiwan, he explained. “Hence, it is of critical importance that the rocket force be reviewed and be ready for combat and the Chinese government needs to assess the political loyalty of the commanding chain to make sure orders are followed in times of crisis. Second, the rocket force is also in charge of stratospheric weaponry development.”
“Furthermore, corruption within the PLA’s procurement and development structure has severely impacted weapon and equipment quality and the viability of existing supply chains: rectifying this issue is of critical importance not only for Xi, but for the PLA at large, as functioning equipment is necessary for combat readiness. However, remedying these matters will no doubt take a long time, further delaying any kind of military action against Taiwan,” the analyst said.
“We are not only talking about embezzling funds or getting kickbacks from military-linked SOEs (state-owned enterprises), but also lowered quality-control standards, resulting in subpar quality weapons and military equipment being purchased and possibly used by the PLA – which includes the Rocket Force,” the analyst added.
Since China’s missile secrets have fallen into Washington’s hands, it will cost trillions of yuan (hundreds of billions of dollars) for the Chinese government to reconfigure its missile system, another analyst said. This huge amount of money could have been spent on improving the Chinese people’s livelihood, said the analyst who declined to be named.
On October 24, Xi personally gave an order to remove Qin as state councilor, a post in the Chinese government equivalent to minister, and dismiss Li Shangfu as defense minister and state councilor, Asia Sentinel reported on October 26. Li has been detained by the authorities, who need to interrogate him on contracts and suppliers in order for the PLA to review its stockpile of missiles and high-tech weaponry prior to engaging in any military action, the Cercius analyst explained.
Was former foreign minister Qin Gang executed?
Two sources told Asia Sentinel that Qin was executed a few months ago, but we have been unable to verify this. In addition to these two sources, a professor believes Qin is either executed or serving a life sentence in prison.
“We may never see old Qin and his lovely girlfriend again. Sad. They will serve at least life in prison,” a professor said.
Fu Xiaotian, a female reporter with Phoenix TV, a Chinese state-owned broadcaster, is believed to have had an affair with Qin in the US. In April, one month after Putin told Xi that Qin was involved in the leak of China’s missile secrets, Fu flew to mainland China in April ostensibly to attend a meeting and was never heard from again, a source said.
Fu’s last post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, was on April 11. She had made several Weibo posts that hinted Qin, a married man, had fathered a baby with her. These posts were broadcast in July around the time of Qin’s dismissal as foreign minister, despite the Chinese government’s heavy censorship of Weibo. This has aroused suspicion among some that the posts are a red herring designed to distract people from the main reason for Qin’s downfall.
“The leakage of state secrets seems the most probable reason they are serving life in prison or worse. In China, the punishment for treason is death,” said the professor who declined to be named. Although he has no evidence that Qin was executed, this outcome or life in prison was likely according to his analysis.
Normally, after a senior official is taken down for corruption in China, the Chinese government would announce details of his crimes but to date, the Chinese authorities have made no public announcement of the reasons for Li’s dismissal as defense minister and Qin as foreign minister, the professor pointed out.
“There has been no precedent for a senior official such as Qin or general Li Shangfu disappearing for so long without official explanation. Just via logical elimination, treason via leakage of state secrets to the US seems the only plausible reason left,” the professor said.
It is doubtful that Qin is dead, the Cercius analyst said.
“There is simply no valid reason for the party to sit on this information of Qin’s death for four to five months, while still playing the administrative game of removing him from positions twice during official meetings. And lest we forget, Qin, to this day, is still a member of the Central Committee,” the analyst explained.
The Central Committee consists of the 205 most senior Chinese government officials and is vested with the power to elect top Chinese officials.
“Following this logic, why publicize Li Keqiang’s death so soon? Why not wait as well?” the Cercius analyst argued.
Li Keqiang, a former Chinese prime minister, died of a heart attack after swimming in a pool in Shanghai on October 27, state media reported on the same day. The 68-year-old Li was accorded a funeral and obituary with high honors.
Qin has been under detention for several months, which is far shorter than some individuals who have been taken down by the Chinese anti-graft agency years ago and still have not been completely processed by China’s judicial system, the Cercius analyst pointed out. “Are we to assume that they have been executed? We do not think so.”
The analyst raised the possibility that rumors of Qin’s execution might be a propaganda ploy by anti-Xi forces within Beijing to undermine the Chinese president.
“Competing factions have been known to mobilize foreign news outlets to spread rumors to push their agenda or undermine someone else’s,” said the analyst.