China Calls Biden ‘Inadequate’ over Lloyd Austin Absence — After Year of Vanishing Chinese Officials

China’s state-run propaganda newspaper Global Times declared President Joe Biden “inadequate” and his administration “disorderly” on Monday over the secret hospitalization of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – a criticism levied nearly five months after the still-unexplained disappearance of now-former Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu.

Austin was reportedly hospitalized on January 1 over what the Pentagon described as “complications” from an undisclosed “elective medical procedure.” The Pentagon chief reportedly did not tell President Biden – who was on vacation through January 2 – that he had been hospitalized. Austin reportedly also failed to inform National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan or his Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who was also on vacation at the time. It remains unclear at press time exactly who was in charge of the Pentagon while Austin was out; a Pentagon spokesman claimed that Austin returned to his duties on Friday, the first day the pivotal military agency revealed that Austin had been hospitalized.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted on Monday that Biden “continues to have complete confidence” in Austin despite growing outrage in Congress and calls for his firing over the failure to disclose that he would be incapacitated over potentially serious health complications. Adding to the outrage are the multiple geopolitical crises the United States is currently facing, including the threat from the Shiite Houthi terrorist organization to international shipping in the Red Sea, the war between Israel and the Hamas jihadist group, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and China’s increasingly frequent threats against the nation of Taiwan.

The Global Times, the most aggressive English-language mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, noted the “harsh criticism” against Austin for apparently failing to notify even the president of his hospitalization, and used it to condemn the American system of republican government generally as “chaotic” and “disorderly.” The Global Times regularly advocates for totalitarian communism as a “harmonious” alternative to the “chaos” of free societies, as it does away with elections and ensures that one tyrant maintains power indefinitely.

“The event reflected a disorderly US government with both the DOD [Department of Defense] and the Biden administration neglecting their duties, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Monday,” the propaganda outlet relayed. ‘As the president, Biden has proven to be inadequate in knowing even the whereabouts of his cabinet members,’ the expert said.”

Li, a Chinese regime-approved “expert” whose opinions regularly appear in the Global Times, described Austin as giving former President Donald Trump “new ammunition” to attack Biden in the 2024 presidential race, as it created a genuine grievance for “criticizing his incompetence not only in governing the country but also his own cabinet.”

Members of Congress condemned Austin following the Pentagon’s revelation of his hospitalization as it appeared that not even the president was aware that he was hospitalized and facing serious health woes for days.

“When one of the country’s two National Command Authorities is unable to perform their duties, military families, Members of Congress, and the American public deserve to know the full extent of the circumstances,” the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said in a statement on Saturday, demanding the Pentagon brief Congress on the situation “immediately.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called the situation a “shocking breakdown” in Pentagon procedure and demanded “consequences” for those responsible, presumably with Austin at the top of that list.

Former President Trump called for Austin to be “fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty.”

“He has been missing for one week, and nobody, including his boss, Crooked Joe Biden, had a clue as to where he was, or might be,” Trump observed. “He has performed poorly, and should have been dismissed long ago, along with ‘General’ Mark Milley, for many reasons, but in particular the catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan, perhaps the most embarrassing moment in the history of our Country!”

The White House has indicated that Biden does not have any intention of firing Austin at press time.

The Chinese government’s attempts to frame Austin’s disappearance as a unique American problem follow a year in which both China’s foreign minister and defense minister vanished without explanation – and the whereabouts of both remain a mystery at press time. Former Defense Minister Li Shangfu, Austin’s counterpart, disappeared after a final public appearance on August 29, skipping pivotal international engagements after only five months on the job. The Chinese government did not comment on its defense minister disappearing for two months – meaning the defense ministry did not have a clear leader for that time – and finally announced that dictator Xi Jinping had fired Li in late October. Li’s whereabouts remain unknown at press time, as well as the reason for his firing, though some online reports suggested that Xi had reason to believe Li was engaging in corruption.

China did not have a known defense minister between October 23 and December 29, when the Communist Party announced that it had appointed Admiral Dong Jun minister of national defense. Beijing never clarified who, if anyone, was in charge of the ministry during that time.

A similar situation occurred in China’s Foreign Ministry in 2023, the public face of the government of China. Former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, a former ambassador to Washington and believed to be a hand-picked protege of Xi Jinping’s, disappeared on June 25, also missing several key meetings with foreign dignitaries. The Foreign Ministry initially claimed that Qin was battling unexplained “health issues,” but the Communist Party ultimately announced that he had lost his position a month later, offering no explanation for why.

Rumors circulating on Chinese regime-controlled social media accused Qin of having an affair with a journalist – and potentially fathering a child out of wedlock – but Beijing never acknowledged those rumors. It also pivotally did not censor them on social media sites such as Weibo, where the government typically moves quickly to silence criticism of government officials that it does not approve of. Both Qin and the journalist implicated in the rumors, PhoenixTV’s Fu Xiaotian, have been missing since June; Fu’s last social media posts were published in April 2023.

Rather than appoint a new foreign minister, Xi gave the job to Wang Yi, Qin’s predecessor as foreign minister and the head of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Party’s Central Commission, a more powerful title than that of foreign minister.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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