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China ousts top rocket scientist from key political body in widening military purge

Hong Kong CNN —

China has expelled a leading rocket scientist from its top political advisory body, the latest sign of a widening purge in the Chinese military’s missile force and aerospace contractors.

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) removed Wang Xiaojun at a meeting in Beijing on Monday – just a year after he was appointed a member, state news agency Xinhua reported, without offering an explanation.

Wang, 54, until recently led the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), a prestigious state-run institute known as the birthplace of China’s aerospace industry.

The CALT touts itself as the nation’s “oldest and largest base for the development, testing and production of missile weapons and launch vehicles,” according to its official website.

Wang spent his nearly three-decades-long career designing rockets at the CALT, a subsidiary of the main contractor of the Chinese space program, the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

Wang’s dismissal from the elite political body is the latest shakeup in China’s military-industrial complex. In December, three aerospace executives, including the chairman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation – were stripped of their roles in the CPPCC.

Two days later, nine high-ranking People’s Liberation Army officers were ousted from the country’s top legislature. Five of them are linked to the Rocket Force, an elite branch built up by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to oversee the development of the nation’s nuclear and ballistic missiles.

No reason was given for the expulsions in December, but experts who have long studied China’s military point to a corruption purge as the likely cause – possibly over the