China’s anti-corruption campaign has been raging for over two years. It began after Xi Jinping became party chairman in December 2012. To date, there is no sign of this anti-corruption campaign coming to an end any time soon.
As of January 2015, this anti-corruption campaign has caused the removal of 60 high-level Chinese government officials ranked above the central government vice minister, deputy provincial governor, and their corresponding Chinese Communist Party (CCP)counterparts. Even more significant is the fact that the Chinese armed forcs have not been excluded from the current anti-corrutption campaign. So far, 15 generals of varying ranks have been removed from their post.
Some China experts and press in the West have proclaimed that this anti-corruption campaign is merely a device for XI to remove his political opponents, replacing them with his own trusted lieutenants. Others think it ought to end soon, because it’s hurting China’s economy. To a certain extent, both may be true.
Should China bring this anti-corruption campaign to a halt soon? Definitely not.
Based on my experience of living and working in China during 1993-2014, whatever the cost of this anti-corruption campaign measured in human lives and lost economic values, it is far less than the economic cost of corruption and the cost associated with rising mass social discontent – a leading contributor of which is rampant government corruption.
The impetus for China’s deep-seated, and wide-spread, government corruption began during Jiang Zemin’s administration (1989-2002), under the banner of GDP growth. During this period some CCP veterans and their family members – including Jiang Zemin’s family – relied on their political power and influence for huge economic gains, often through the privatization of government-owned assets.
During Hu Jintao’s administration (2002-2012), there was a growing awareness of the rising cost of government corruption, its eventual threat to China’s social stability, and CCP’s legitimacy. Unfortunately, Hu had the intent but lacked the power and influence to launch any systematic anti-corruption campaign against embedded political and economic interests.
Xi was much better endowed than his two predecessors – thanks to his father’s close ties to the PLA, other members of the “CCP Elders” dating back to the Long March, and their offsprings, the so-called “princelings” – to commence the current campaign aimed at “tigers” and “flies” alike, especially the “tigers.”
How do Chinese citizens react to this anti-corruption campaign? I think a few might say “too much,” a lot more would say “not enough,” and an overwhelming majority would say “it’s long overdue.” In any case, there is little doubt that this campaign enjoys strong public support within China, as well as ethnic Chinese communities around the world.
Will China’s on-going, anti-corruption campaign stop soon? Hopefully not. Not before public confidence in government’s determination to wipe out corruption has been fully re-stored. Not before a strong force of deterrence, brought on by the severity and frequency of punishments dished out to corrupt government officials, has been put in place. Not before a comprehensive judiciary and administrative system to educate and prevent government officials from corruptive practices has been put in place.
When will that comprehensive system of prevention be put in place? It’s anybody’s guess, given that it’s China.
When should it be put in place? Yesterday.
Meanwhile, it seems the campaign will continue. More “tigers” and “flies” will fall. All for the better.