Now entering its second year, China`s anti-corruption drive is truly making progress and raising a few eyebrows internationally in both its depth and continued commitment to removing both the culture and perception of corruption in the country.
According to the Transparency International 2013 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI), China is currently ranked 80 out of 177 countries, below South Africa and Brazil. Furthermore, out of the 28 economic powers included in the 2011 Bribe Payers Index Report, China ranked 27th, above only Russia. These figures paint a damning picture of the state of corruption in China, one which Xi is undoubtedly looking to change under his premiership. The long term aim of his anti-corruption drive is to reduce the level of Chinese corruption more in line with that of the country’s main economic rivals, namely the US in 19th place on the CPI.
China will establish a new anti-graft body to further strengthen its efforts to rout out corrupt officials. The plan for a new anti-graft agency was put forward by the Party committee of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP). A vice-ministerial level, full-time member of the procuratorial committee will hold a concurrent post as head of the new anti-graft agency. This new agency will further the work of the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), a secretive agency that leads the investigation of corrupt officials.
The numbers of investigations are impressive: in the first half of 2014, prosecutors investigated more than 25,000 individuals on suspicion of corruption, according to statistics released by the Supreme People's Procuratorate in July. Companies and public service groups supervised by the Communist Party of China and government departments will now face a new round of top-level disciplinary inspections amid China's anti-corruption drive.
The anti-corruption drive has not just been based at home. It has moved into the international sphere with the CCDI Operation Fox Hunt extended to arrest corrupt officials who have fled abroad. During the recent APEC meetings, Western governments were approached by Beijing to help find such officials and to recover money that has been spirited abroad to relatives. On 17th November, Xinhua news agency reported that during the 4 months of Operation Fox Hunt, the number of suspected fugitives arrested as part of the operation stands 288.
The effects of the anti-corruption drive are beginning to be felt both in China and abroad. With Chinese officials changing their past lavish spending habits due to fears of being tainted with accusations of corruption, Chinese government bank deposits have increased by a yearly average of almost 30% since early 2013, according to the BBC. However, this is taking a toll on China’s already slowing economy, causing an estimated reduction in growth of 0.6% this year: entire restaurant empires were built on a foundation of lavish spending by government officials hosting and toasting one another. It was exactly this sort of conspicuous consumption that Xi Jinping has correctly perceived as highlighting the disparity in wealth between the ruling class and China's working people.
Furthermore, the desperate scramble of officials to send their ill-gotten gains overseas has seen a rise in the already high levels of capital outflow from China. Indeed, the US-based non-profit group Global Financial Integrity estimates illegal cash out- flows from China amounted to some $2.83tn between 2005 and 2012. While this undoubtedly demonstrates the high cost of corruption, the level of legal cash outflows from China is also rising, with businesses and wealthy individuals investing their wealth overseas for fear of becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal. The Financial Times reports that during October within the period of a week, Anbang purchased the Waldorf Astoria in New York for $1.9b and Belgian insurance company Fidea. This is far from the only example, with some even predicting that this capital outflow will dwarf the gains from the anti-corruption drive.
The predicted losses to the Chinese economy reveal a great deal about the nature of the anti-corruption drive, in that it appears to be a genuine attempt to change the culture of the Communist Party, whatever the economic consequences. That said, there is always more to it than meets the eye. Since his assumption of the premiership, commentators have closely followed Xi’s grip on the party, highlighting instances where the anti-corruption drive may have been used as a disguise for the elimination of his rivals. Indeed, several of the main challengers to Xi’s rule, such as Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang were purged during the early stages of his premiership. However, the duration and depth of the campaign suggest that it goes beyond an attempt to consolidate Xi’s grip on the party, and is indeed a genuine attempt to clean up Chinese officialdom. Indeed, despite predictions of severe economic consequences, Xi has persevered and even furthered the campaign. According to China Daily, in the last 2 months alone 9 senior figures in the party have been subject to corruption allegations. These figures were:
11/17 Yu Yanshan, 49, head of the NEA's development and planning division
11/13 Feng Lixiang, former secretary of the Communist Party of China committee of the City of Datong, Shanxi province
11/06 Li Changgen, 57, a senior official of the Henan High People’s Court
11/06 Li Jiangong, the head of Bureau of Land and Resources in north China's Shanxi Province
11/05 Cao Jianliao, former deputy mayor of Guangzhou, Guangdong province
09/05 Liang Guoying The executive vice mayor of Dongguan city in Guangdong province
09/04 Bai Yun, head of the United Front Work Department of Shanxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC)
09/02 Ren Runhou, vice governor of north China's Shanxi Province
09/02 Tan Xiwei, a former senior legislator in Chongqing Municipality
Source China Daily Aug-Nov 2015
Xi’s anti-corruption drive has already seen many prominent figures fall, and is likely to see many more in the coming months. The long term impact of the campaign is uncertain, but it is clear that Xi’s motives go beyond just consolidating his rule; all appearances indicate a genuine effort to end the archetypal problem of Chinese corruption.