CPC prepares to oust disgraced members in third conclave

The upcoming third plenum of the Communist Party of China is set to dismiss three members, including General Li Shangfu and former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, aiming to sever ties following their removal from government positions in 2023.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) is poised to dismiss three members from its Central Committee during an upcoming conclave, potentially scheduled for February. The upcoming third plenum of the CPC’s top committee is anticipated to remove the full memberships of General Li Shangfu from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and former Rocket Force Commander Li Yuchao. This move follows their removal from government positions in 2023 and aims to sever their ties with the party as well.

The read-out of a Politburo meeting on Jan 31 did not specify a date for the third plenum. This is apparent because Central Committee members can only be removed during such gatherings. This action draws parallels with the 2008 removal of former vice-minister of culture Yu Youjun from the Central Committee for unspecified disciplinary offences.

Currently, the Central Committee, overseeing all party work, comprises 205 full members and 171 second-tier alternate members without voting rights. Members are elected every five years during a national party congress, voting for the Politburo, the Standing Committee of the Politburo, and the party’s general secretary. The trio’s vacancies are expected to be filled by alternate members who were the top three vote-getters at the 20th party congress in 2022.

Among the figures facing dismissal, General Li Shangfu, former defence minister, has been absent from public view since August 2023 and is reportedly under investigation for corruption. Former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, removed in July 2023, allegedly faced ousting due to an alleged affair with a Chinese reporter. General Li Yuchao, the former Rocket Force commander, and several subordinates are under investigation for corruption.

During the plenum, Admiral Dong Jun, who succeeded Gen Li as defence minister, is likely to replace his predecessor on the Central Military Commission (CMC). If confirmed, the Navy will have two seats on the CMC, reflecting President Xi Jinping’s commitment to transforming the armed forces into a maritime power.

Speculations also surround Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong, who may be named director of the Central Committee’s General Office, concurrently joining the CPC’s Politburo. This position oversees the drafting of party directives and internal memos, as well as logistical arrangements for major meetings.

Beyond these changes, the third plenum is expected to focus on economic challenges, aiming to stimulate the slowing economy, address unemployment, and boost confidence among domestic and foreign investors. China faces challenges such as a deepening property crisis, deflationary risks, and subdued demand. The outcome of the plenum will shed light on the CPC’s strategies to navigate these complex economic issues.