Until his retirement in late 2012, General Xu held one of the highest ranks in the People’s Liberation Army, as a vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission. He was also a member of the elite Politburo. He has become the most prominent Chinese military leader to be purged in decades, and the most senior official named publicly in Mr. Xi’s campaign to clean up the elite and impose his authority on the party, government and army. [...]
“I think Xi is building to a crescendo, and he’s aiming for others to be rolled out,” [Christopher K.] Mr. Johnson [a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington] said. “This is the most high-profile attack on a military figure since Deng Xiaoping’s time. There’s a message here from Xi to all resisters. It also sends a huge message on defense structural reform.”
We’ve written in the past about the political implications of the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crusade to capture the “flies” and “tigers”—code for corrupt officials, low-level and high. While these kinds of purges have been par for the course when leadership changes happen in China’s closed political system, Xi’s actions have been notable for how far and wide they have swept. Bo Xilai, it seems, was just the tip of the iceberg.
Put these kinds of stories together with the widely reported increases of religious repression—including most recently the ban on public employees fasting during Ramadan—along with the ongoing economic, environmental and demographic challenges facing China’s leadership, and you have a worrying picture of a nation that is only growing more insecure. All is not well and the Politburo knows it. They are battening down the hatches.