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Xi made it clear, when he assumed the leadership of the Party at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party in 2012 that there was a big problem with corruption – bribery, dishonesty, extortion, fraud, preferential treatment for Party members and other bad practices including graft, immorality, and family advancement. In his first speech as Party Leader, Xi warned Party members that the people of China would lose faith and confidence in the Party if corruption was tolerated.
Western critics of China – not for the first time – missed the significance of Xi’s political priority and dismissed it as the Leader using fine words to “eliminate opponents”. The anti-corruption drive was nothing more, they said, than settling scores with opponents who opposed his promotion to Party Chairman . These critics were wrong. It was, and remains today, a campaign of great significance that goes a long way to securing the long term future of the Party and the People’s Republic of China.
Corruption had grown as a consequence of the Deng Hsiaoping inspired Reform period. A rapid period of economic growth produced prosperity for the people. But it also bred bad practices. Corruption did increase as some in authority took bribes, back handers and showed favouritism to family members.
Some people, especially in the higher echelons of the Party were cheating. Deng was right that improving the standard of living was the priority after the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976. And the standard did improve and that was important. People worked hard, earned higher wages and rightly enjoyed a higher standard of living. But there was a downside – embezzlement, fraud, deception and deceit. Embracing aspects of Capitalism came at a cost and, if the negatives were left unaddressed, the Party would lose the support of the people, and the future of the Revolution would be in doubt.
In the ten years to 2022, more than 2 million government officials have been prosecuted. The campaign is part of a much wider drive to clean up wrongdoing within party ranks and to re-assert the importance of the bond between People and Party. The focus of wrongdoing is not on gift-giving during holidays, or hosting banquets at expensive restaurants to secure business deals – all generally known as guanxi.
A good illustration of the clean-up process occurred on 19 May 2023 when Zhou Qingyu, a former vice president of the China Development Bank, came under investigation on suspicion of serious violation of the law. Zhou was detained by authorities after he was summoned by inspectors from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection last week. The former executive joined a long parade of China Development Bank officials who have been investigated for corruption.
Last September, Zhou accumulated 5m yuan ($712,000) of funds from bribes and was asked to detail the sources of the money. Some sources linked Zhou’s investigation to the bribery case of Fu Xiaodong, a former Henan branch head of the China Development Bank. Fu, promoted by Zhou, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last month for taking 4.3m yuan of bribes. Fu received the bribes in exchange for favours such as securing loans, business contracts and promotions for others. One of the alleged bribers was Luoyang Jinxin Group Co. Ltd, a private conglomerate with operations in jewellery, finance, real estate and mining.

According to Caixin, a Beijing based media investigative company, it is alleged that Liu Hao, head of the China Development Bank’s Guangdong branch, was taken away by authorities in March, and recently removed from his position. Other executives who have been punished or placed under investigation include the bank’s former Yunnan branch chief Hong Zhenghua, former Chairman Hu Huaibang and former Vice President He Xingxiang.

By attacking corruption, especially in high places Xi Jinping demonstrated to the 1.4bn people of China that the Party remained true to its founding principles. Xi saved the Party, just as Mao had saved China after the Zunyi Politburo Meeting in January 1935, and Deng had saved the Economy with his far-reaching policy of Reform in 1979. Xi reaffirmed the close relationship between Party and People that is at the core of China going forward. The People matter and the Leaders matter as well.

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