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Xi inveighs against graft but portents are not promising
A new crusade against corruption is likely to be one of the hallmarks of the leadership transition starting at the end of this year. Rhetoric about the need for officials to abstain from high living and to devote themselves to serving the people will flow from the centre.
Dangerous luxury How much practical effect this will have remains open to doubt. But Xi Jinping, who will take over from Hu Jintao as Communist Party Secretary and then as State President, has set the tone by reminding Party members that “the ancients said that if history is any guide, for any country or household, austerity breeds success while luxury leads to failure. We Communists should heed this warning.”
Gu, Liu and the smaller fry Xi’s speech, which was printed in the Communist magazine Qishi, came ahead of the trial for the murder of a British businessman of Gu Kailai, wife of the fallen Party star Bo Xilai, after a string of revelations about alleged misdemeanours and wealth accumulation. (See my article on the Bos after Gu was charged.) Earlier this year, Liu Zhijun, the Railways Minister sacked in 2011, was suspended from the Party after being found guilty of large-scale graft, and will now be tried by the law courts. To take a random sample of recent corruption cases:
- A former Deputy Director of the State Food and Drug Administration was sentenced to 17 years in prison for accepting bribes, illegally selling tens of thousands of copies of a health book and planning a letter-writing campaign falsely accusing his superior of corruption.
- A village chief in Guangdong was charged with corruption totalling US$192,483 after requisitioning land and passing the rights to people who paid him bribes.
- A cashier at the Beijing Botanical Garden was sent to jail for 15 years for embezzling US$735,503 by paying salaries to six fictitious staff members.
- A village chief in Zhejiang has been charged with illegally seizing land worth more than US$1.56 million.
- Elsewhere in Zhejiang two officials are being prosecuted for accepting bribes of US$95,000 from enterprises that sold pork products made from ill and dead pigs.
- In Greater Beijing a village head is being prosecuted for his part in pocketing US$1.35 million from relocation compensation funds.
“Abyss of corruption” Polls reflect the popular anger at graft and the way in which members of China’s elite and their relatives profit from their positions. Playing a theme which is likely to be heard through the transition, which will last until the appointment of a new prime minister and government at the National People’s Congress next March, Xi said in his speech that failure by Party officials to be “in close contact with the people” would lead to “frustration and failure”. “Some party members and cadres are even indulging in feasting and pleasure-seeking, and have consequently fallen into the abyss of luxury and corruption,” he went on. “The lessons are profound," he added.
But he has f lessons to draw close to him. Bloomberg ran a comprehensive report last month on how his relations have enriched themselves – the news service has been blocked in China since then.