According to a CNN report, China recently made a surprise shake-up in PLA Rocket Force, with two new chiefs being appointed. Chinese leader Xi Jinping appointed Wang Houbin as the commander of the Rocket Force and Xu Xisheng as the political commissar. However, there has been no official mention of the previous chief, Li Yuchao, or the prior commissar, Xu Zhongbo.
This replacement of two top officials in the Rocket Force is unusual, especially since the new appointees come from outside the branch, with Wang from the Navy and Xu Xisheng from the air force. The reshuffle came after weeks of rumours about a leadership change, further fueled by Li’s absence from public view.
The Rocket Force is responsible for overseeing China’s missile programs, including nuclear and shorter-range missiles. The recent changes have raised concerns among observers about Xi Jinping’s leadership and potential worries about the force’s ability to carry out its mission reliably, particularly as China seeks to build up its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to potential US intervention in a Taiwan contingency.
Satellite images have also revealed the construction of numerous intercontinental ballistic missile silos in Chinese deserts, indicating an expanding Chinese nuclear force. The US Defense Department predicts a significant increase in the number of nuclear warheads in China’s arsenal over the next decade.