The recent development of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption storm is the investigation of fourteen People’s Liberation Army (PLA) generals including Major General Guo Zhenggang, the son of Guo Boxiong, who retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) in 2013.
In China, the CMC chairman, as the president of the state, has many affairs to deal with. Therefore, the two vice chairmen are in charge of the daily management of the PLA. The recently retired vice chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong are very powerful as they have been in charge of Chinese military for a decade.
Xu has already fallen in disgrace, while Guo may also be in trouble as he may very probably be involved in his son’s crime. Even if he is found not to be involved, his influence in the Chinese military will be greatly reduced.
That gives the impression that Xi’s anti-corruption storm is only a power struggle.
It is certainly not the case. In the section “Xi’s Difficulty in Fighting Corruption due to Faction Politics” Chapter 16 of my book Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements Expanded 2nd Edition, I said:
When Chen Liangyu was found guilty of corruption, Jiang Zemin did not protect Chen, but allowed Chen and his accomplices to be punished. At that time, Jiang’s Shanghai faction was the strongest faction and was, therefore, not afraid that Chen’s downfall would weaken the faction.
For a smaller faction, the removal of a high official in it may greatly weaken it. It will certainly protect the official and demand a lenient punishment or even immunity. Other smaller factions will mostly side with the faction of the guilty official for fear that it was a larger faction’s trick to weaken smaller factions one by one.
The resistance of the alliance of smaller factions may become quite strong especially when it is joined by the quite strong conservative faction built up by Bo Xilai through his anti-organised crime and sing-red campaigns. That was also the cause for the difficulties in making the decision to punish Bo Xilai harshly.
Hu Jintao made great efforts to fight corruption. He sent investigation teams periodically to various localities and departments while his protégé Wang Yang launched an anti-corruption campaign in Guangdong before the 18th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress, but neither of them achieved significant success, as they lacked the power to overcome the resistance from various factions.
Knowing that, Xi lobbied the influential elders in all factions during his mysterious absence in early September 2012 and obtained their support. He made especially clear to them that he would investigate and punish officials on the basis of reliable evidence with disregard to their faction background, and asked the elders not to protect guilty officials out of the interest of their factions. He told them that otherwise, the CCP would collapse as it was utterly impossible to fight corruption that had brought the CCP to the verge of collapse.
At that time, corruption was as pervasive as it was before the collapse of some dynasties in Chinese history. There were quite a few emperors and honest officials who made great efforts to fight corruption, but few had succeeded in the fight to prevent the collapse of their dynasties.
Xi’s success is exceptional in Chinese history.
Xi knows that he has to find a way to eliminate corruption for China’s long-term stability and prosperity. He took a gradual approach to avoid overly strong resistance from the large number of powerful corrupt officials; therefore, though corruption is pervasive, so far the number of officials punished is limited. He aims at creation of awe among officials to prevent further corruption by a continuous relentless widespread anti-corruption campaign.
To ensure a corruption free future, he wants to formulate a special law to fight corruption. The following is Reuters report on China’s plan to formulate such a law:
China to implement new anti-graft law
China plans to enact specific legislation to fight corruption, the head of the country’s parliament said on Sunday, as the government continues its campaign against graft.
Zhang Dejiang, who is also the ruling Communist Party’s third ranked leader, made the announcement at a full meeting of the National People’s Congress‘ roughly 3,000 delegates.
He gave no details, and it is not clear how the new law will differ from existing laws which target things like bribery and embezzlement. The party generally conducts its own probes into corruption first before handing over suspects to prosecutors.
“The top legislature is mulling imposing harsher punishment on those committing crimes of embezzlement and bribery,” Xinhua said.
President Xi Jinping, who assumed office in 2013, has vowed to go after powerful “tigers” and well as lowly “flies”, saying, like others before him, that the problem is so serious it could affect the party’s ability to maintain power.
Other legislation planned includes laws on domestic violence, terror, the management of foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and on cyber-security, Zhang added, as well as an amendment to the air pollution law. He gave no details.
The anti-terror law, which would require tech firms to provide encryption keys and install backdoors granting law enforcement agents access for counterterrorism investigations, has drawn concern internationally, including in the United States.
The proposed NGO law has also attracted criticism for the restrictions it seeks to impose.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Greg Mahlich)