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China has announced the resignation of General Li Shangfu from the position of Minister of Defense

China has announced the resignation of General Li Shangfu from the position of Minister of Defense, marking the latest removal of a high-ranking leader from public view without much explanation. This move comes amid a broader shake-up in the country's leadership, which includes the removal of former Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

According to state television network CCTV, General Li Shangfu, along with former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, has also been removed from the membership of the State Council. This is a rare step involving the dismissal of officials from the inner circle of the ruling Communist Party.

General Li's removal comes almost two months after his absence led to widespread speculation, and three months after Qin Gang, a former ambassador to the United States and once seen as a rising star close to President Xi Jinping, was similarly removed under mysterious circumstances. This follows recent upheaval in the leadership of the country's nuclear forces.

China is currently grappling with economic challenges and escalating tensions in its relations with the United States. It remains unclear whether these leadership changes signal any shifts in policy or are instead indicative of an intensified crackdown on corruption and perceived disloyalty.

Qin Gang, who replaced Qin Wang Yi, is in Washington this week to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, potentially setting the stage for the first meeting between President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping in a year.

No explanations have been provided for the removal of the two officials, which is typical of China's governance. This action followed a vote by China's leading legislators, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, to leave Li's position vacant.

While General Li held the position of Minister of Defense, his role was more ceremonial compared to that of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Nevertheless, the aerospace engineer and military general was a prominent figure in Xi Jinping's government.

General Li, who assumed his position in March during a cabinet reshuffle, had not been seen in public since August 29.

There have been reports in several Western media outlets, including The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, suggesting that he is under investigation for corruption and is set to be dismissed. However, these details have not been confirmed by NBC News.

The removal of this duo from the center of state power effectively ends their political careers. However, little is known about their current whereabouts, and it remains uncertain whether they will face any legal consequences.

General Li continues to be under U.S. sanctions for his role in China's purchase of Russian weaponry in 2017. At the time, China expressed "strong indignation" over this move, labeling it "unfounded" and a "mistake."

Please note that translations can sometimes be subject to interpretation, and the accuracy of the translated text may vary depending on the context.