The Chinese government has officially dismissed its defence minister, Li Shangfu, after he disappeared from public life for two months. No immediate successor to his role has been announced.

Li Shangfu’s removal from his position, announced without any accompanying explanation, follows the removal of several other top officials. Qin Gang lost his position as China’s foreign minister in July. Both Qin Gang and Li Shangfu were not only removed from their primary roles but also ousted from the State Council, China’s top decision-making body.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, approved the removal of both individuals.

China currently finds itself without a defence minister just as it is set to host foreign defence officials in Beijing. Media reports suggest that Li Shangfu was under investigation for suspected corruption related to equipment procurement and development.

Li Shangfu’s last public appearance was on 29 August when he participated in a security forum in Beijing with African nations. He had only assumed his role as defence minister in March of this year.

Li Shangfu started as an aerospace engineer at a satellite and rocket launch centre and rose through the ranks of the military and Chinese political circles. In 2018, he headed the military’s equipment development division, when the US government imposed sanctions on him due to China’s acquisitions of Russian combat aircraft and arms. These sanctions appeared to strain his relationship with the United States, leading him to decline a meeting with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, at a defence summit in Singapore earlier this year.

Both Li Shangfu and Qin Gang, the former foreign minister, were considered favourites of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Qin Gang’s abrupt removal in July, only seven months into his tenure, was equally shrouded in mystery, with media reports suggesting it might have been related to an extramarital affair.

The ongoing replacements and dismissals within the leadership of an elite unit responsible for managing China’s nuclear arsenal have led to speculation of a possible purge within the military. General Li Yuchao, who headed the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force unit, and his deputy had been absent from public view before they were officially dismissed a few months later.