Disciplining the Party : Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign and its limits

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Journal article

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China Perspectives

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Francais sur la Chine Contemporaine China


When Chinese president Xi Jinping vowed to crack down on both senior leaders and low-level bureaucrats – or “tigers” and “flies” as he put it (laohu cangying yiqida 老虎苍蝇一起打) – after he was elected to the post of CCP General Secretary in November 2012, few could have thought that his words could grow into one of the largest campaigns against corruption and petty officialdom in China’s modern history. Since then, dozens of powerful leaders, along with many low-level officials, have been put under investigation, indicted, or convicted, including former Chongqing Party secretary Bo Xilai, a score of senior officials, and stateowned enterprise executives connected to former security tsar Zhou Yongkang, PLA Central Military Commission vice-chairman Xu Caihou, and, more recently, the vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Su Rong. For all its unprecedented scale and intensity, to what extent can the anti-corruption campaign curtail widespread corruption in the long run?

This article takes the view that Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive resembles a party-building campaign for amassing political power amidst China’s fragmented power structure rather than a systemic remedy to cure endemic corruption. Although the anti-corruption drive appears unswerving, given its unceasing effort in probing high-ranking officials and its expansive scope of investigation that has been spilling into formerly unchallenged sectors, the campaign is likely to fall short of its claimed ambition. A closer look at the campaign indicates that it relies heavily on the opaque Party disciplinary mechanism rather than on the legal system to investigate and punish officials. In addition, the campaign catalyses the concentration of power among Party agencies affiliated with Xi in the name of anti-corruption as opposed to installing genuine checks and balances. Consequently, the campaign might reinforce the authoritarian system that has engendered widespread graft in the first place, and could sow seeds of future corruption.

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Recommended Citation

Yuen, S. (2014). Disciplining the Party: Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign and its limits. China Perspectives, 2014(3), 41-47. Retrieved from http://www.cefc.com.hk/download.php?file=dc7e383333eca4f4e9bbe446fc95b63b&id=100051332