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Why Xi Jinping Lacks Trust In His Own Military

Why Xi Jinping Lacks Trust In His Own Military

In the past two months, a series of high-ranking Chinese generals have vanished from public view, including the defense minister and leaders of the unit responsible for China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). These disappearances are unexpected, given the perception of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dominance over the People’s Liberation Army and his earlier commitment to rooting out wrongdoing. The fact that such incidents continue and affect sensitive areas of the PLA suggests limitations to Xi’s authority.

Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have historically granted the PLA considerable autonomy in managing its affairs. While this autonomy ensures political compliance with Xi and the CCP, it also allows for malfeasance and weak accountability. Although the details of recent purges remain unclear, they reflect Xi’s lack of confidence in some senior officers.

Xi’s doubts about his personnel and their management of critical resources could influence his risk calculations regarding the initiation of a conflict. As long as Xi questions the competence of his generals and the equipment they oversee, his mistrust of his own military might deter him from considering military action.

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