China's President Says His Anti-Corruption Drive Is Deadlocked | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

China's President Says His Anti-Corruption Drive Is Deadlocked

There's been much to-do about China's anti-corruption drive, and the leading example of that effort has been the downfall of a man who was once one of the country's most powerful officials, ex-security czar Zhou Yongkang.

But the Chinese government's unprecedented decision to investigate Zhou, which potentially paves the way for formal corruption charges, may not be quite the triumph many observers assumed. Perhaps the clearest signal comes from a recent assessment by the man at the helm of the corruption crackdown: Chinese President and Communist Party boss Xi Jinping.

"The two armies of corruption and anti-corruption are at a stalemate," Xi reportedly told a closed-door Politburo meeting in late June.

"In my struggle against corruption, I don't care about life or death, or ruining my reputation," a state-run newspaper in northeast China quotes him as saying, in remarks that have been described as "shocking."

Several state media outlets republished the report, which censors deleted later.

It's a glimpse into the party's inner chambers, and of the strength of internal opposition Xi is likely facing. It's also a sign of a potential backlash against the wider anti-corruption campaign, which is popular with ordinary Chinese fed up with endemic graft.

Until his retirement two years ago, Zhou commanded a vast security apparatus whose budget eclipsed even the military's. Now, he is accused of violating unspecified party rules. Criminal corruption charges could follow.

Observers see Xi as eager to make the anti-graft drive one of his signature policies, and to go at it with a blitzkrieg-like intensity. State media report that officials are being investigated at the rate of 50 a month, including, since February, two officials per month at or above the level of Cabinet minister.

State media have commented that China's leaders are determined to break tacit rules that politicians at the highest level are immune from prosecution, a tradition that has centuries-old roots in Chinese political culture.

But the many remaining corrupt officials — both high-ranking, powerful "tigers" and lower-level "flies" — are unlikely to sit around and wait to be picked off one by one, anti-corruption expert Guo Wenliang told the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper.

So "the risk of a joint counterattack by the tigers is very, very great," said Guo, who teaches at Zhongshan University in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Among the tactics the "tigers" might use, he said, is turning the tables on leaders in charge of the anti-corruption drive — by gathering evidence of their corruption.

There's no evidence of a counterattack so far. But the fact that it took so long for the government to announce the investigation into Zhou Yongkang suggests to many observers that it ran into stiff resistance.

Every year, China sees thousands of cases of grass-roots unrest, often triggered by official corruption in the provinces. But the threat of a political counteroffensive by corrupt officials recalls the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's famously dire prediction: "If China runs into trouble, it will come from inside the Communist Party."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit


Church Of Scientology Calls New HBO Documentary 'Bigoted'

The filmmaker says Going Clear, harshly critical of the Church of Scientology, is about the dangers of "blind faith." The church has hit back with an aggressive public relations effort of its own.

Think Nobody Wants To Buy Ugly Fruits And Veggies? Think Again

Remember that old movie trope, in which the mousy girl takes off her glasses to reveal she was a beauty all along? A similar scenario is playing out among food waste fighters in the world of produce.

Amazingly, Congress Actually Got Something Done

The leaders and members must, in a word, compromise. And on this occasion, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did just that, with skill and savvy.

Can Republicans Get Ahead In The 2016 Digital Race?

When Sen. Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, it happened first on Twitter. Political news is breaking more and more on social media, and both sides face different challenges in reaching out.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.