China’s Anti-Graft Campaign

IITM CSC Article #84
13 March 2015

China’s Anti-Graft Campaign

The recent anti-graft campaign in China led by President Xi Jinping has exposed high levels of official misuse of authority in China. Ever since he took the power in late 2012, senior member of Chinese ruling establishment including Communist Party leaders, government officials, military generals and state-owned company officials have been found guilty of serious charges of corruption. Over the years, hundreds of high level officers and thousand others across different levels of the Chinese administrative set up have been investigated and prosecuted. The Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), headed by Politburo Standing Committee member and close aide of President Xi Jinping, Wang Qishan is spearheading the entire campaign. The anti-graft campaign is aimed at driving out corrupt party and government officials who pose a serious threat to political stability and the Party’s control.

 In a very candid observation, recently CCDI posted a story recalling imperial times of Empress Dowager Cixi’s rule and her court official Yikuang, a Manchu noble, amassing wealth through corruption and graft. It was a deliberate attempt on behalf of CCDI to draw a parallel between Yikuang and modern corrupt high-ranking cadres, in order to strengthen the public discourse and draw popular support for anti-graft campaign.

The charges of corruption and investigation against high-level officials are witnessing a rising trend as campaign becomes wider. This includes removal of eight CPPCC members and 18 NPC delegates from 2008 to 2014. China is investigating 14 of its senior military officers, including son of former vice-chairman of powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). Similarly, Chinese oversees assets and their bosses are under suspicion as they were never subjected to official audit and are easily prone to corrupt business practices. The CCDI has announced inspections into 26 major state-run firms and aims to finish inspecting all major State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) by the end of the year.

Secondly, the nature of the charges and involvement of high offices suggests that there is serious lacuna in Chinese legal framework to counter corruption. To this, China is looking for necessary revisions in Law on Administrative Supervision, Law on Administrative Review and Electoral Law for the National People's Congress and Local People's Congresses. The resolution adopted during CCP plenum in October 2014, embarked upon improving the system of legal sanctions and prevention so that "officials dare not, cannot and do not want to be corrupt". The proposed revisions in Criminal law (1997) are in line with a decision on ‘rule of law’ adopted by the CCP in October, 2014 and aims for strict regulatory sanctions in China against corruption. To counter corruption in the armed forces, China is embarking upon “scientific” management of a military justice system with promulgation of Military Procuratorate Law.

The ongoing anti-graft campaign reflects a shift from collective leadership towards centralization of power in Presidency in China. As some analyst point, the ongoing campaign is driving out the party of factionalism and informal groupings. A Politburo Standing Committee meeting in January called upon the legislature and other state institutions to act consistently with Mr. Xi’s leadership “in ideology, in politics and in action”. However, much depends on the procedural clarity and institutional ability to oversee the shift in power circles.

The debate is still going on in China, on whether the anti- graft campaign in China is aimed towards greater centralization of power in the hands of Presidency or is for authoritative accountability. It is no less an attempt in search of increased political stability and engaging the concerns of an informed citizenry in China.


Abhishek Pratap Singh
Doctoral Candidate,Chinese Studies Division,School of International Studies,Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi.
Article PDF: