Cybersecurity & Tech

ChinaTalk: PLA Purges + Taiwan War Risk

Jordan Schneider
Wednesday, October 25, 2023, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Defense Minister Li Shangfu just got officially purged. To discuss, we brought on Joel Wuthnow, a fellow at NDU. His research areas include Chinese foreign and security policy, Chinese military affairs, US-China relations, and strategic developments in East Asia. He joined ChinaTalk to discuss Xi Jinping’s recent purges of high-ranking members of the People’s Liberation Army, Xi’s larger vision for the PLA, and what all this internal turmoil might mean for China’s longer-term designs on Taiwan. This was recorded earlier in October.

Key insights:

Over ten years after coming to power, Xi is still purging corruption from the military, reflecting his continued lack of trust in the PLA;

Corruption is historically endemic in the PLA in part because of its incentive structure, which makes graft a prerequisite for rising through the ranks;

Xi’s efforts to break up the PLA’s supervisory apparatus have only been partially successful (they’re still the same people even if they’re in a different department);

Amid the anti-corruption shakeup, China’s Rocket Force has been successfully developing hypersonic missiles, technology viewed as critical to countering US intervention in a regional conflict over Taiwan;

Despite Xi’s apparent distrust of his inner circle of military advisors, an echo chamber–induced invasion of Taiwan is still a live possibility.

Joel Wuthnow is a senior research fellow with the National Defense University.

Nicholas Welch cohosts.

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Jordan Schneider is the host of the ChinaTalk podcast and newsletter. He previously worked at Kwai, Bridgewater and the Eurasia Group. His Chinese landscape paintings "show promise."

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