As we near the 4th anniversary of President Xi Jinping's anti corruption drive, the question that is increasingly being asked is how is this drive faring and is there an end in sight? In the past many Chinese leaders have instituted similar such anti-corruption drives, but most have spluttered out after a few months. Not many Chinese leaders before President Xi Jinping have dared to touch high ranking Chinese Communist Party [CCP] leaders, popularly referred to as "tigers," on corruption charges; although none before him have had any compunction in throwing out inconvenient rivals on trumped up charges of being "anti-party". If the past is any guide, then Xi Jinping's drive should have faded away by now. But on the contrary, it is still very much in evidence.
If we look at the figures, the CCP's Disciplinary Inspection Commission has investigated upwards of 500,000 lower level officials, popularly known as "flies", of whom about 120,000 have received sentences and reprimands. In each of the years from 2012 to 2014, the percentage of those caught committing economic crimes and official corruption have steadily gone up by an average of ten percent. As of September 2016, about 127 civilian "tigers"[Vice Minister and above] and 86 military "tigers" [Maj-Gen and above] have been incarcerated. Of the high level "tigers", the most prominent were the former member of the Politburo Standing Committee Zhou Yongkang, Politburo members Bo Xilai, Gen. Xu Caihou, Gen. Guo Boxiong and the former Director of the CCP Central General Office, Ling Jihua.
It would have been unthinkable in the past for such high level officials to be incarcerated. Some have attributed Xi's drive to his desire to attain absolute power in China, some think that this has been a neat way to get rid of his political rivals; as also to gain popularity with the Chinese people. It comes as no surprise therefore that some foreigners think the after Chairman Mao, Xi Jinping is the most powerful Chinese leader to emerge. Be that as it may, Xi's anti corruption drive ably piloted by his closest Politburo colleague, Wang Qishan shows no sign of abating. It is now said that this is now the new "normal" in China.
But Xi Jinping's anti corruption drive has unwittingly had its deleterious effects on the administration of China. Few officials are prepared to take any major initiatives for fear of being labeled as corrupt. In such an atmosphere of "fear"; decision making has considerably slowed down, although it would be uncharitable to assert that some kind of an administrative "paralysis" has set in. In such circumstances, what should the leadership do? Four administrative measures are emphasized.
Firstly, while tightening decision making and maintaining tighter administrative control; the scope for discretion with Chinese cadres should be sharply reduced. Secondly, the time has come to reduce the "gap" between the salaries of cadres and those of the private sector employees. Thirdly, as the new emerging elites in Chinese political and economic firmament often have close links and blood ties with past CCP elites, it is necessary to proceed cautiously lest the entire administrative structure comes under severe strain. And lastly, Xi Jinping needs to have some kind of an "amnesty" scheme, whereby those charged with lesser misdemeanors are able to atone for their crimes.
All these measure suggested are neither novel, nor unique. Most Asian States face similar problems. It remains to be seen that as China approaches the 19th Party Congress of the CCP, whether there will be any let-up in Xi Jinping's anti corruption drive. After all, he would need the support of his CCP colleagues to "elect" cadres of his choice in the governance of China.