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Getty Images Some say Mr Xi has taken advantage of the crackdown to score political points
As the latest phase of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crackdown cuts through high-level banking and the elite nuclear rocket force, some have questioned when it might end.
Short answer: It won’t.
This has become a central issue of governance for China’s leader.
And, because the anti-corruption campaign has been used to deter anyone with even the slightest inclination to deviate from the way things were done, Mr. Known as, right and center for no good reason.
But there are some people who don’t see it that way.
“Xi may be skeptical of high-level corruption, but his fears are not delusional,” says Andrew Weidman, head of China Studies at Georgia State University.
“The corruption he fears is certainly real. It is also probably true that Mr Xi has taken advantage of this crackdown to score political points.”
Under Chairman Mao, the philosophy was that corruption could be controlled by promoting love of the Party.
Then, during the Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin era, the idea took hold that, if you give people a better life, they will have less incentive to act corruptly.
By the time Hu Jintao was in transition, life was much better for most Chinese people, but there were also people who wanted more and were willing to use dishonest methods to get it, again leading to wide-scale fraud. got promoted.
Now it feels like Chairman Xi is completely back to Mao’s way of doing things and is placing a heavy emphasis on party loyalty to fix the problem.
And it is through the party itself that these campaigns have been launched, with investigations revolving around alleged violations of its own rules. This is effectively a case of organized politics with the party running the investigation as per its wish.
‘People just disappear’
He can do this because the majority of people holding high-level positions in Chinese society are members of the Communist Party – whether in financial institutions, sports organizations, government departments or universities.
But once you become a member, you run the risk of facing party discipline charges, which are sometimes very vague and even relate to questions of personal morality and bring disrepute to the party.
During this process, the feared Anti-Corruption Commission teams simply make people disappear.
Theoretically, their families should be informed before being taken for interrogation at secret locations, but there is no guarantee that this will happen.
One day you are no longer visible in public and the next you are expected to be interrogated indefinitely, without any legal representation or external accountability.
Getty Images Most people in high-level positions in Chinese society are members of the Communist Party
And, while it is believed that this will clean up economic interaction so that it runs more smoothly, this action may also have the opposite effect.
“It is reducing the incentives for creativity, entrepreneurship and risk-taking, which have been the driving force [China’s] Economic growth since 1979,” University of Toronto political scientist Lynette Ong told the BBC.
You’ll hear the phrase “lying flat” used a lot in today’s China. It sometimes refers to people who drop out of the “rat race” in their 20s while living at their parents’ house and playing video games for hours on end without any major ambitions in life. because they cannot see a positive future.
But it is also being used to describe executives at state-owned enterprises or in the private sector who are doing just enough to keep their jobs, no more, no less. They consider it too risky to stand out by pushing for innovation or being overly ambitious.
“Xi wants officials to be clean and hard-working,” says Deng Yuwen, who was once editor of the Communist Party’s influential newspaper The Study Times.
“But because of Xi’s focus on corruption, they will simply ‘lie’. Mr Xi, of course, does not want to allow this and is demanding that they work hard so that their corruption is not exposed. But action Continued It’s been more than 10 years now and the officers have become accustomed to it. If you would motivate me to work, I would try a little harder. If you would stop cracking the whip on me, I would some time “I’ll make it easy for you and ‘lay flat’”.
big money, big bribe
But the high-profile take-downs in recent months in the finance sector are an isolated case, with senior executives accused of being too active for the wrong reasons. Former chairmen of major banks and a one-time regulator are also among those implicated in charges of allegedly taking huge bribes. More than 100 finance sector officials have been punished last year.
Mr. Deng says, “A lot of officials have been involved in financial corruption for many decades. It is impossible to clean it up in a year or two.” “Last year, banking was a big target. It will be the same this year and it will be the same in the coming years too.”
According to Professor Weidman, “We should expect a lot of corruption in the banking sector because, after all, the banks are where the big money is”.
However, if banking in China is where the money is then the ultimate power lies with the military.
The People’s Liberation Army is not the country’s army, it is the Party’s army and it has complete control over it.
So the purge of the generals running the nuclear rocket force, as well as Defense Minister Li Shangfu, has revealed just how serious China’s corruption fight has become – with dishonest procurement processes allegedly leading to faulty gear being pushed into the nuclear arsenal. Used to be.
Getty Images No explanation given for the sudden removal of Li Shangfu
“We’re not just talking about embezzlement of funds or bribery, but substandard military equipment being purchased and potentially used by the People’s Liberation Army,” said Alex Payette, CEO of Cersius, a Montreal-based geopolitics consultancy. Are also talking about.”
Alfred Wu of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy says corruption in the rocket force may have hit Mr Xi hard.
“He had high hopes for the rocket force,” Professor Wu told the BBC. “If I have very strong rocket power, then in the future, if I have a war with Taiwan, it can absolutely play an important role.”
Do they think that reorganizing this important part of the People’s Liberation Army might actually delay any move to annex Taiwan by force?
“of course of course!”
Yet analysts observing the anti-corruption crackdown in China have identified a major flaw in Mr. Xi’s approach as the complete absence of any systemic changes that could tackle these problems in the long run.
Prof Payet said, “The Party has failed to curb corruption, despite efforts to develop its regulatory mechanisms and discipline inspection rules, etc. Insofar as the Party remains the only structure with access to state resources, it Cannot curb structural corruption.”
Some other countries have launched truly independent anti-corruption bodies, increased transparency, improved the rule of law and empowered independent media to report on corruption. China has not done any of these.
Instead, the Communist Party governs itself. What’s left is a never-ending search for bad apples, without any strategy to stop them before they’re gone.
Furthermore, according to Professor Weidman, drastic changes in societal attitudes are also required: “Reducing and controlling corruption requires changes not only in laws, regulations and oversight, but also in the culture of officialdom and the culture of new generations. A deep change in socialization is required, for whom corruption and bending the rules are no longer standard and accepted practice.”
For many, this became clear after three years of the Covid crisis, when the rest of the world reopened, but China remained closed and under heavy restrictions even as the economy declined.
“There is no doubt that there are smart people around,” says Professor Ong, “but their insistence on zero-Covid until mass protests start tells me that people who understand economics really have I don’t have his ears.
Other China watchers fear Mr Xi has surrounded himself with “yes-sayers”.
“At this point, Xi is not looking for candid advice. He is looking for loyalty,” says Professor Payette.
“It seems that Xi has become a victim of being constantly praised by cadres who only want promotion. Given the early history of the Party, he should have known that Party cadres are trying to protect themselves from being purged and want to stay in the upper echelons of the Party. “Engage in flattery to gain access to sectors of the state apparatus.”
Getty ImagesChina’s zero-COVID rules were among the strictest in the world
To a certain extent there is a perception that all officials are corrupt (be they high-level “tigers” or “flies” at the lower rungs) and that those who have been singled out are, for whatever reason, a threat to Mr. She.
It is estimated that 5 million people have been punished in various ways during the crackdown, some receiving warnings or fines, while others received heavy prison sentences or even the death penalty .
But rather than promoting the perception that the country is being well governed, many believe it is also hurting the party’s reputation among the general public.
As Professor Weidman said, “I suspect that more than 10 years of crackdowns and an endless parade of ‘caged tigers’ have probably deepened public skepticism.
“In quite simple terms, if you spend a decade fighting ‘life and death’ battles with tigers and – 10 years into hunting – you are getting the same as you did when you started hunting. “This strongly suggests that you are not hunting them to extinction and may not even have caused a significant decline in their numbers.”