Report of Chinese Submarine Incident Reveals the CCP’s Internal Struggles: Former Chinese Navy Officer

Report of Chinese Submarine Incident Reveals the CCP’s Internal Struggles: Former Chinese Navy Officer
A type 094 Jin-class nuclear submarine Long March 15 of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China's PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao, in eastern China's Shandong Province, on April 23, 2019. (Mark Schiefelbein /Pool/AFP/via Getty Images)
Jessica Mao
News Analysis
Unconfirmed reports of a Chinese nuclear submarine mishap last month in the Taiwan Strait drew wide attention to the Chinese military’s capabilities. At the same time, China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu has been absent from the public for three weeks, which sparked speculation on the regime’s internal power struggles.

One former Chinese navy officer told The Epoch Times that there could be a connection between both incidents.

There were recent rumors that China’s Type 093 nuclear submarine exploded, resulting in the deaths of all officers and sailors on board. This was circulated on China’s heavily censored social media and on X, formerly Twitter.

It was not until Aug. 31 that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officially responded to the matter. Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said at a regular press briefing that the alleged submarine explosion was a false rumor.

Yao Cheng, a former lieutenant colonel in the Chinese navy, said in an interview with The Epoch Times on Sept. 15 that as far as he knew, the nuclear submarine indeed ran into trouble due to quality issues, but it was not a major incident, let alone an explosion.

If it was an explosion or the submarine sank, not only would the Chinese side send many salvage ships to the incident site, but other countries would also send several ships to carry out salvage tasks. This simply did not happen, Mr. Yao said.

He further pointed out that a U.S. nuclear surveillance aircraft was flying over the Yellow Sea at that time but did not detect any nuclear contamination. He also said: "The U.S. amphibious assault ships and Korean navy ships were close to that area. If nuclear contamination existed here, the U.S. warships would not go there."

Quality Issues Among China’s Nuclear Submarines

Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, emphasized at a meeting in late August that the quality of China’s military equipment must be improved “in a way that is responsible for the lives of the officers and soldiers."

Mr. Yao said the CCP's nuclear submarines are in trouble because they have significant quality issues. He said, "The Type 093 submarine is the second-generation nuclear submarine of the CCP, and its performance is quite poor."

Mr. Yao, who had strong ties with key individuals in the Chinese military, claimed that the submarine had technical issues during its training exercises.

He said: "I heard that there was a technical malfunction. They encountered issues with the air circulation system, endangering the lives of the sailors, but it was a normal training incident and not a full-on explosion."

Publicly available information shows that the 093-type nuclear submarine is the second generation of the Chinese navy's nuclear-powered attack submarine, with a length of 106 meters, a body width of 11 meters, and a displacement of 6,000 tons. The submarine's maximum diving depth is 400 meters.

Online reports also suggested that the nuclear submarine incident made the recently promoted CCP naval commander Wang Dazhong look incompetent and that he has been blamed for the alleged incident. However, Vice Adm. Wang reportedly blamed the incident on the submarine’s poor design and mechanical issues.

Mr. Yao explained that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is currently attempting to improve the quality and performance of China’s military equipment, and such rumors reveal the technical challenges in the CCP’s defense industries.

Crackdown on Military Corruption

Mr. Yao also told The Epoch Times that something significant must have happened to Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who has not been seen publicly for weeks.
On July 26, the Equipment Development Department of China’s Central Military Commission announced that it had been looking for clues about corruption in equipment procurement since October 2017. Notably, in September 2017, Gen. Li succeeded Gen. Zhang as the Central Military Commission's equipment development minister. Mr. Yao suggested that the investigation was aimed at Gen. Li.

Mr. Yao further confirmed that paramount leader Xi had purged many people in the Chinese military’s Rocket Force.

He said: "The root cause of all the problems in the Rocket Force ultimately leads to the Equipment Development Department, which is being investigated for the quality of its products and the misuse of funds. Xi Jinping, who is preparing to overhaul the entire military in light of the Rocket Force’s corruption, now senses that the Chinese military has a significant corruption problem. So Xi Jinping has made up his mind to purge the system from the top."

The corruption investigation involves former Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who has reportedly been "missing" for several months. He has not been seen in public since he was replaced in a reorganization of the CCP's State Council in March this year. The retired general served as the first commander of the Rocket Force from 2015 to 2017.

Mr. Yao suggested that Mr. Xi's grasp of power is being challenged by the “princelings” within the CCP, referring to the descendants of prominent and influential officials, who are the immediate beneficiaries of the CCP’s authoritarian rule. The princelings view Mr. Xi’s erratic policies as threatening the Party’s stability, potentially impacting their wealth and interests; thus, they seek to undermine Mr. Xi’s rule, Mr Yao said.

Xin Ning contributed to this report.