China Agrees to High-Level Military Exchange with U.S. – Without a Defense Minister

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on
Patrick Semansky, Pool/AP

The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that genocidal Chinese dictator Xi Jinping agreed during a meeting with President Joe Biden to allow high-level military exchanges with American counterparts next week, including a meeting of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with the Chinese defense minister.

China does not currently have a defense minister, however, making such a meeting impossible.

The last man to hold the office, Li Shangfu, vanished without explanation in August, the second such top minister to do so this year. Now-former Foreign Minister Qin Gang disappeared in June but, unlike Li, the Chinese government replaced him immediately following the confirmation that he had lost his position – with his predecessor and now once again Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The Chinese government confirmed in late October that Li was no longer defense minister – and that Qin had lost his last remaining government title, that of state councilor – but has yet to name a replacement at press time. A week after the formal announcement that Li had lost his job, Chinese state outlet Global Times boasted that Xi Jinping’s campaign against alleged “corruption” had resulted in the purge of half a million Communist Party officials, including some in the highest levels of power.

Beijing first confirmed on Wednesday, following Biden’s four-hour meeting with Xi in San Francisco, that it would accept scheduling an in-person meeting between Austin and Li’s unknown successor in an undetermined future. Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters on Thursday that Austin would indeed “meet with his counterpart when that person is named.”

Austin, also speaking to reporters on Thursday, emphasized the alleged need for high-level exchanges with communist China, an awkward position to take when the high-level official holding the equivalent of Austin’s position in China does not currently exist.

“We will continue to need the — the mechanisms to manage crises and — and make sure that — that, you know, we — we prevent the wrong things — of — we prevent things from spiraling out of control from time to time,” Austin said, referring to China’s increasing belligerence against sovereign Taiwan and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

He continued:

That’s even more important, as you pointed out, if, you know, activities in the region have increased, if unhelpful things like close intercepts and that sort of stuff, if the numbers of those events have increased, then all the more reason that senior leaders need to be able to talk to each other.

Austin was in Indonesia at the time on a tour of the Asia-Pacific region.

The Chinese Communist Party immediately celebrated the meeting between its dictator and the president of the United States as an “epochal” event greatly benefitting both countries. The Biden administration exhibited similar optimism, particularly surrounding the issue of military-to-military exchanges, which can help prevent clashes in regions where both the American military and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) operate. China and the United States have not had such exchanges since August 2022; Xi canceled all such talks in response to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visiting the nation of Taiwan. China falsely claims Taiwan as a “province” of China and demands “reunification” under communist colonization, which Taiwan enthusiastically rejects. The United States does not recognize the reality of Taiwan’s sovereignty – a concession to China made under former President Jimmy Carter – but does sell weapons to Taiwan to protect it from invasion.

Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter sign diplomatic agreements between the United States and China. ca. January 31, 1979. (Hum Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In one of his last public appearances, former Chinese Defense Minister Li threatened to attack Taiwan “without hesitation.” At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, a defense conference, Li said that Beijing demanded “mutual respect” from potential partners in Asia, “which should prevail over bullying and hegemony, fairness and justice should transcend the law of the jungle, eliminating conflicts and confrontation through mutual trust and consultation and preventing bloc confrontation with openness and inclusiveness.”

Li refused an invitation to meet with Austin, who attended the Shangri-La Dialogue, on that occasion.

“Overnight, the PRC informed the U.S. that they have declined our early May invitation for Secretary Austin to meet with PRC Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu in Singapore this week,” Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said in a statement. “The Department believes strongly in the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication between Washington and Beijing to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.”

The Associated Press

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a plenary session at the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia’s annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Saturday, June 11, 2022. (Danial Hakim/AP)

Li has not made any public appearances since he lost his job and his whereabouts are unknown. Some reports have claimed, citing his previous roles in weapons and other military equipment procurement, that he may be facing charges of corruption.

“The investigation into Li relates to procurement of military equipment, according to a regional security official and three people in direct contact with the Chinese military,” Reuters reported in September.

His counterpart at the Foreign Ministry, Qin, disappeared in a flurry of rumors of engaging in an affair with a television journalist. The Chinese regime-controlled social media outlet Weibo was flooded with comments linking him to Fu Xiaotian, a PhoenixTV reporter who had interviewed him shortly before his disappearance. Fu had posted messages on her own accounts revealing that she had given birth to a son but disappeared from the public eye shortly after Qin did. The identity of the child’s father is not publicly known.

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