US spies question China’s ability to fight a war due to alleged corruption in the military, the agency reported
US intelligence believes the sacking of several high-ranking Chinese militarily figures before New Year was linked to widespread corruption in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Bloomberg has reported, citing people familiar with the assessments.
The problem is the most pressing within China’s Rocket Force, in which major investments have been made in recent years, the agency said in an article on Saturday. It cited several examples of graft within the PLA, based on American assessments.
Among other things, Bloomberg’s sources mentioned Chinese “missiles filled with water instead of fuel” and waste fields of missile silos in western China, with faulty lids that won’t allow the munitions to launch effectively.
According to the sources, corruption inside the rocket force and the defense industrial base is so rampant that US officials now consider Chinese President Xi Jinping to be “less likely to contemplate major military action in the coming years than would otherwise have been the case.”
Washington suggests that corruption has led to an erosion of confidence in the overall capabilities of the PLA in Beijing, and also set back some of Xi’s plans to turn the Chinese military into a modern force by 2027, the sources said.
However, the assessments stress that the Chinese leader “hasn’t been weakened by the widening purge.” Xi’s decision to sack senior military figures “shows his hold over the Communist Party remains firm and that he’s serious about improving discipline, eliminating corruption and ultimately preparing China’s military for combat over the long term,” the report read.
Bloomberg stressed that the US assessments could not be independently verified. The Chinese Defense Ministry or civilian authorities have yet to comment on the report.
In late December, Beijing announced the dismissal of nine military figures, five of whom were linked to the rocket force, from China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC). Shortly before that, three high-ranking officials in charge of missile production in the country lost their jobs.
There have been other high-profile changes within the military in recent months, including the sacking of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu in late October amid reports of his involvement in a corruption scandal.
On Sunday, China blacklisted five American defense industry companies in response to “gravely wrong actions taken by the US,” which, according to Beijing, included continued arms sales by Washington to Taiwan and US sanctions on Chinese firms.
Chinese officials have repeatedly claimed the US is interfering in the country’s internal affairs by maintaining contacts with Taiwan, a self-governed island, viewed by Beijing as part of its territory. In November, a Chinese government spokesperson warned Taipei that “Taiwan independence means war.” US President Joe Biden vowed last year that Washington would defend the island in case of a conflict with Beijing.
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