A Second Wind for an Ancient Route
The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative is expected to bring benefits to countries and regions along the route
Current Issue
· Table of Contents
· Editor's Desk
· Previous Issues
· Subscribe to Mag
Subscribe Now >>
Weekly Watch
Expert's View
Market Watch
North American Report
Government Documents
Expat's Eye
Photo Gallery
Reader's Service
Learning with
'Beijing Review'
E-mail us
RSS Feeds
PDF Edition
Reader's Letters
Make Beijing Review your homepage
Hot Links

Market Avenue

Special> NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2015> Opinion
UPDATED: January 25, 2014 NO. 5 JANUARY 30, 2014
Tigers and Flies
By Jon Taylor


At the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November of 2013, much of the focus was placed on anticipated economic and social reforms. However, one area that both casual observers and Western news media mistakenly assumed that had been overlooked was the issue of corruption. Some even suggested that corruption received little attention because the CPC was not making progress on the issue, or was uninterested in expanding reform measures designed to curb corruption, or both.

This is incorrect. The reforms in the Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening Reforms—as well as the actions on the part of the CPC and its Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) since the election of the new leadership in 2012—clearly demonstrate a strong emphasis by the CPC on addressing corruption, building a clean government, and intensifying anti-corruption efforts by going after both "tigers" and "flies"—high- and low-ranking corrupt officials. The Decision highlights the determination of the Party to institutionalize anti-corruption efforts.

Supervision of power

Part 10 of the Decision states, "The key to empowering the system is to keep it open and easily monitored by the public and to have a complex system governing its proceedings." Part 10 of the Decision, which is the Supervision of Power, notes the importance that the restriction and supervision of power plays in deepening reform. While some specific anti-corruption and accountability measures have been offered in previous settings, Part 10, specifically Points 35-37, comprehensively address problems related to the supervision of power. For the first time, the Party provides a mechanism to restrict power through the regulation and supervision of that power by the people.

The reforms offered in Part 10 set up the possibility of even greater anti-corruption initiatives in the future. For example, the expansion of the CCDI's discipline inspection and supervision system may serve as an effective check on the use of power by officials. The creation of a mandatory asset declaration mechanism, as well as an inspection and accountability system for officials' selection and housing allotment, will likely play a significant role in China's anti-corruption drive. Nowhere is this more evident than in Point 36 of the Decision.

To say that the CPC is either incapable of reform or unwilling to implement additional anti-corruption reform is puzzling at best and disingenuous at worst, given the relatively straightforward nature of Point 36 of the Decision. If anything, Point 36 reinforces President and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping's call for "restricting power within a cage of rules and regulations" by institutionalizing the Party's investigation and enforcement efforts.

Point 36 states: "Enhance innovative systems for identifying corruption. Anti-corruption responsibility belongs to the Party committee, with the commission for discipline inspection being responsible for supervision. Ensure that the CCDI sends discipline inspectors to central-level Party and government organs and exercises unified management."

How is this statement in any way indicative of the CPC's incapability or disinterest in expanding anti-corruption reform efforts? Rather than an expression of incapability or disinterest, Point 36 of the Decision recognizes that the insidious nature of corruption risks the legitimacy of the Party, societal stability, and China's long-term economic health. It stresses the need to improve the Party's power to control and supervise cadres, while also strengthening anti-corruption systems.

A key element of Point 36 is the reform of the CPC's discipline inspection system, specifically by strengthening the powers of the CCDI's authority under Article 43 of the Party Constitution by shifting the two core powers of affairs and personnel authority to higher-level discipline inspection commissions. This new discipline inspection system will ensure the full independence of local supervision and anti-corruption agencies by prohibiting Party committee or local government leaders from becoming members. All local anti-corruption agencies now directly report to the CCDI. Ideally this new system will increase the effectiveness of these agencies in anti-corruption enforcement.

Reform initiatives

Improving transparency and the quality of leadership within the CPC has been one of the central messages associated with the Decision. Following the conclusion of the plenary session, Wang Qishan, Secretary of the CCDI, noted that "disciplinary inspection groups must sharpen their eyes, ears and noses," a clear signal that the Party will continue to pursue its anti-corruption work.

On December 25, 2013, as a follow-up to the plenary session's call for deepening reform, the CPC Central Committee announced a plan to firmly fight against harmful work styles and corruption in the next five years. Noting that, "Corruption is still widespread­—The soil that nourishes corruption still exists, and the situation remains critical and complicated," the plan is designed to improve the CPC's anti-corruption system and related laws by investigating any and all corruption allegations, as well as punishing wrongdoers in order to deter others. Given the considerable issues faced by the Party regarding power-for-money deals, judicial corruption, major violations of Party discipline, mass incidents that occur because of corrupt officials, commercial bribery, and the improper selection of officials, the plan reiterates the power and primacy of the CCDI to act as the central discipline watchdog for both the Party and government.

The continuing fight

Corruption is of great concern to both the Party and the Chinese public. In his inaugural speech to the Politburo in 2012, CPC General Secretary Xi noted that unless the Party addressed corruption, social unrest could rise and it could lead to the demise of the Party. Corruption was third among the 10 top concerns of the Chinese public in 2013, up from seventh in 2012, according to a survey carried out by People's Daily before the March 2013 meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. One would guess that the survey before the two meetings in 2014 will again show that corruption is a top concern of the Chinese people.

A little over a year ago, China's new leadership announced that it would make greater efforts to build a clean government and intensify anti-corruption efforts. Under the leadership of CPC General Secretary Xi, the Party has strengthened ideological discipline while also intensifying efforts to adopt policies tackling corruption. In order to enforce party discipline, Xi introduced the movement of educational practice through mass line. Faced with the issues of corruption and inefficiency of governance, the mass line movement was launched in June of 2013 with an aim to bolster Party-people relations by stressing the necessity of solving the "four bad styles" of formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance in the Party.

Xi also launched a campaign to tackle corruption, in large part to address the damage to the relations between the Party and the people. The policy encouraged Party leaders to conduct in-depth exchanges with the public in order to identify and correct problems. Xi compared this self-critical approach with "looking into the mirror" and "taking a shower," thereby showing good faith on the part of the Party to win back the trust of the people and to strengthen the foundations of the country's governance structures.

Illustrative of this new campaign to battle corruption is the sheer number of Party and state officials subjected to investigation since the new leadership was elected: At least 16 ministerial-level officials and more than 25,000 civil servants have been subjected to CCDI investigations and discipline. A symbol of the Party's attempt to improve communication and trust with the people is the CCDI's new website, launched in September of 2013. Representing a more transparent and participative approach to fighting corruption, the site receives an average of 827 tip-offs about corruption daily.

Final thoughts

The reforms offered by the plenary session clearly demonstrate a strong emphasis on the part of the CPC to seriously address corruption, build a clean government, and intensify anti-corruption efforts. The Decision represents a blueprint for future reform and proposes solutions to China's most critical economic and social problems.

Post-Plenum, the key to success of anti-corruption efforts­—as well as other reforms proposed in the Decision—will be the pace and detail of policy implementation documents that will be released in the next few months. Implementing these reforms will be a challenge and will take time.

The author is chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and a professor of political science

Top Story
-A Gray Year for Peace and Growth
-Oil Prices on the Decline
-War Against Smog
-The Burning Question
-Unraveling Mysteries
Most Popular
About BEIJINGREVIEW | About beijingreview.com | Rss Feeds | Contact us | Advertising | Subscribe & Service | Make Beijing Review your homepage
Copyright Beijing Review All right reserved