Is Xi Jinping’s wife behind top-level purges, changes in China’s military? – Firstpost

Is Xi Jinping’s wife behind top-level purges, changes in China’s military?  – Firstpost

(File) Chinese President Xi Jinping waves next to his wife Peng Liyuan as they board their plane for departure following a two-day state visit, at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia, on May 8, 2024. Reuters

Is China’s mighty leader being subtly steered by his equally influential wife from behind the curtain of power?

Behind China’s military decisions?

According to a report in Asia Nikkeithere are suggestions that Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, may have influenced the abrupt dismissals of two former defence ministers, Wei Fenghe and his successor Li Shangfu, from both their ministerial positions and the Chinese Communist Party. The report raises questions about whether President Xi is facing challenges in securing unwavering loyalty from the Chinese military.

On June 19, according to a Xinhua Report: Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of political loyalty within the armed forces during a key meeting in Yan’an, Shaanxi Province. He stressed the need for the military to uphold the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) absolute leadership and called on senior officers to align with the Party’s expectations, ensuring a solid political guarantee for military development. President Xi highlighted the importance of building a cadre team that is loyal, clean, responsible and capable. He noted significant progress in enforcing strict discipline and eradicating corruption within the military. Political work is essential for military effectiveness and integrity requiring leaders who are reliable and loyal to the Party, said President Xi.

Ahead of President Xi’s European tour in May, a report in Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily indicated that Peng, 61, appeared to have become a member of the Chinese Central Military Commission’s examination and evaluation commission. The publication included a photo that was widely shared on social media allegedly depicting Peng in military attire inspecting a military educational institution. This leads to speculation that Peng, who began her military service in 1980 and remains an active-duty military officer, might wield influence over military personnel matters. Asia Nikkei Reports that the appointment of former navy officer Dong Jun as defence minister has sparked speculation. Given Dong’s proximity to Peng and their shared origin in Shandong province, it is believed that this connection played a favourable role in his appointment. However, Dong’s appointment has not gone down well within the military as it sides the army.

Speculation indicates that President Xi uses his wife to ensure key military personnel changes, selecting individuals he trusts completely in terms of loyalty. According to the Asia Nikkei report, Peng is viewed as the sole military officer whom President Xi truly relies upon.

Diplomatic influence

Peng’s diplomatic influence is profound. As a prominent global ambassador, she often accompanies President Xi on international trips, engaging in cultural diplomacy that enhances China’s global image and fosters goodwill. Foreign Minister Wang Yi lauded her “first lady diplomacy” during President Xi’s recent European tour through France, Serbia and Hungary where Peng played a significant role.

Peng Liyuan: The unofficial power broker

President Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, is a prominent figure in China, known for her extensive contributions across military, political and diplomatic spheres. In the military, she holds the rank of Major General in the PLA and has significantly impacted the PLA’s cultural initiatives. As a celebrated folk singer, Peng has performed for PLA troops during national events and military celebrations, boosting morale and promoting cultural unity within the armed forces. The army has been the most powerful organ in the PLA. While she does not hold a formal political office, her visibility and popularity contribute to her husband’s public image and the broader political landscape.

Despite President Xi’s formidable stature, Peng has carved out a powerful, albeit unofficial, influence that can impact official decisions of the Chinese president. This influence is crucial given the military’s delicate support as President Xi pushes through reforms to strengthen China and its own legacy. Loyalty to Xi often needs to meet Peng Liyuan’s standards guarding against potential betrayals.

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