Xi Jinping Inner Circle (Part 1: The Shaanxi Gang)
Comment of the Day

March 04 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Xi Jinping Inner Circle (Part 1: The Shaanxi Gang)

Thanks to a subscriber for this informative report by Cheng Li, Director of Research at John L. Thornton China Center, detailing the rise the Xi Jinping and those who have ascended to power with him. Here is a section:

As for the “tigers,” since about a year ago 19 ministerial and provincial-level senior leaders have been arrested, including four members (two full members and two alternate members) of the newly formed 18th Central Committee.51 Many of the arrested leaders have had ties to the country’s most formidable special interest groups like the oil industry, including Jiang Jiemin, the minister who oversaw all major state-owned enterprises (SOEs) under the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC). In addition, 30 executives of SOEs—including 20 CEOs—were arrested in 2013, representing various industries such as energy, transportation, telecommunications, finance, steel, and mining.

?Some critics may be cynical about the methods employed in the anti-corruption campaign, which relies more on the CCP’s traditional campaign mechanisms rather than the legal system. Zi Zhongyun, a distinguished scholar and former English interpreter for Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, recently wrote that the current anti-corruption campaign could not effectively prevent corruption—not only because there are far too many corrupt officials in the country, but also because such a campaign might lead to power abuse and undermine the role of the legal system and emerging civil society.53 While Zi and likeminded critics have valid concerns, one may reasonably argue that this criticism is unfair on the grounds that one simply cannot expect to establish a legal system in China in a short period of time. The fact is that, as Zi herself recognizes in her article, the campaign has already transformed the behavior of Chinese officials. Also, in the defense of Wang Qishan, Wang himself stated explicitly that the anti-corruption campaign should mainly deal with symptoms (....) now in order to gain the necessary time to find a way to cure the disease (....) in the future.

It should be noted that the Third Plenum resolution did hold out promise for legal reforms, especially greater judicial independence. Under the current system local judges and secretaries of local discipline inspection commissions answer to local party chiefs, who exert political pressure on their decisions. Under the rule of Bo Xilai, for example, Chongqing city’s high court almost completely followed Bo’s orders. Abuse of power and police brutality became rampant in the city. The proposed vertical control of local courts by the national judiciary (and also the vertical control of local discipline commissions by the CCDI) should be seen as an encouraging policy move to prevent power abuse and strengthen the rule of law.

Eoin Treacy's view

The Party Congress currently underway is taking place amid the aftermath of terror attacks and high expectations for reform. This report is a useful primer for how the political establishment is structured and who is in charge of what. 

It also helps to highlight the fact that while reform is not taking place quick enough to satisfy investors, progress is being made and that the Chinese are thinking in terms of decades not months. 


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