Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, August 01, 2014

More on corruption (or is it power struggle?)

More than two years ago, I took note of the suspicions that Zhou Yongkang was under investigation for corruption. The investigation is now public. That probably means that the investigation is done and all that's left is sentencing.

China Says Zhou Yongkang, Former Security Chief, Is Under Investigation
In President Xi Jinping’s most audacious move yet to impose his authority by targeting elite corruption, the Communist Party on Tuesday announced an investigation of Zhou Yongkang, the retired former head of domestic security who accumulated vast power while his family accumulated vast wealth.

Mr. Zhou, who retired from the Politburo Standing Committee in late 2012, is the most senior party figure ever to face a formal graft inquiry. Until now, no standing or retired member of the Standing Committee has faced a formal investigation by the party’s anticorruption agency…

Mr. Zhou, 71, retired from the party leadership in November 2012, at the same congress that appointed Mr. Xi the top leader, but he remained a potentially dangerous adversary, with ties to more senior retired figures…

China bares its claws for 'caged tiger' Zhou Yongkang
The Chinese Communist Party has announced an investigation into one of its most powerful politicians, the former security chief Zhou Yongkang.
In a move which signals President Xi Jinping's hard-fought victory in a battle for supremacy over the party high command, the Xinhua news agency says Mr Zhou is to be investigated for serious disciplinary violations, a shorthand for corruption... 
[W]ith his public disgrace, China's politics moves into uncharted territory. Mr Zhou is the most senior politician to be humiliated in this way in decades.
During the reform era of the past 35 years, there has been an unwritten pact that those arriving at the top do not attack those departing, an effort to avoid the political savagery of the Mao era... 
But with today's announcement of the investigation into Mr Zhou, President Xi has torn up the rulebook for top level Chinese politics... 

Today's announcement from China's official news agency gives no detail of the allegations against Mr Zhou.

But many observers believe his fate may have been sealed when his protege, Bo Xilai, fell from power as a result of a sensational scandal involving his wife's prosecution for the murder of a British businessman... 
China's one-party political system lacks the kind of electoral cycle which makes room for new people and new ideas and an anti-corruption campaign has often been a convenient means for a new leader to neutralise rivals and consolidate power.

But with today's public disgrace of such a senior figure, Xi Jinping is signalling that his campaign is different.
The People's Daily said tonight: "The situation is still grim and complicated….Fighting corruption won't end. Taking out Zhou Yongkang is not the end. This is only one step, one stage. Whoever is corrupt will be punished."

For Xi Jinping this is an important personal victory. He has ended the uncertainty over whether he could land one of the biggest "tigers" of them all and prove himself the unchallenged strongman at the top... 
What's more, today's announcement does nothing to rescue the reputation of the Party itself.

And delivery of such a hugely significant political stroke in a terse one line statement on the official news agency and broadcast news serves to underline how little either the Chinese public or the world at large are permitted to know about the internal politics of the world's second-largest economy.

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