Power Struggle, The Excuse to Oppose Xi’s Anti-corruption Campaign

Wang Qishan, China’s chief corruption buster who has the largest number of strong enemies in the world. Photo: Reuters

Elimination of widespread rampant corruption needs an exceptionally wise, brave and powerful leader. The leader shall be very clearly aware of the great danger in the job. Officials exploit their power to commit corruption so that the greater the power, the more serious the corruption. Therefore, the “tigers” Xi has to catch in his fight against corruption are real tigers with sharp teeth. They are able to assassinate high officials in charge of the fight or even the leader. They may even launch a coup d’état.

However, they know the risk of the assassination and coup especially when the leader controls China’s secret police; therefore, the best way for them is to spread the rumor that the real purpose of the fight against corruption is to remove or weaken the factions not controlled by the leader so as to establish the leader’s absolute power.

It is common that there are various factions in a communist party, but especially in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after Mao’s Cultural Revolution because those who were in a faction with substantial strength suffered less persecution and regained their positions sooner during and after the Cultural Revolution.

Usually, a high-ranking official appoints and promotes quite some officials. Those officials together with the officials they appointed and promoted form a faction due to comradeship, friendship and common interests and aspiration. When the high-ranking official has retired, he still controls the faction formed due to his influence and will interfere for the interests of his faction whenever possible if necessary.

When it comes to the decisions at a Party Congress on candidates for members of Central Committee, Politburo and its Standing Committee, Central Military Commissions and Party Secretariat and other senior posts, all the retired elders who have been dormant, will come out to take part in the bargaining behind the scene because it affects the balance of strength among various factions and concerns the interest of not only themselves but also the large number of their faction members.

The removal of a high official in a faction due to corruption may greatly weaken the faction; therefore, it will certainly vigorously resist and demand a lenient punishment or even immunity. Other factions will mostly side with the guilty official’s faction for fear that it was the leader or the anti-corruption official’s power struggle trick to weaken the factions they do not control one by one. The resistance of the alliance of those factions may become quite strong especially when it is joined by the quite strong conservative faction built up by Bo Xilai through his anti-organized crime and sing-red campaigns. That was also the cause for the difficulties in making the decision to punish Bo Xilai harshly. The decision had not been made until Jiang Zemin came to Beijing to preside over an expanded Politburo meeting on September 27, 2012.

Power struggle is corrupt officials’ best excuse in opposing Xi’s fight against corruption!

In order to succeed in his fight against corruption and for further reform, Xi visited all the powerful elders who were heads of various factions and convinced them that what he did was to save CCP instead of enabling his own faction to have dominant power over all other factions. He even showed them that he had no faction of his own and told them he would have an official with little factional background to be in charge of the fight against corruption.

His choice of Wang Qishan convinced them. Wang’s father-in-law Yao Yilin was for a time a Politburo Standing Committee member, but Yao was in charge of economy. Wang himself, though promoted by Zhu Rongji of Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai faction, was employed as high economic officials. Economic officials usually have little political power in CCP.

Wang seems powerful in having investigated and punished powerful officials including a retired Politburo Standing Committee member and two retired top generals, but his power comes from Xi Jinping and CCP organization. He has no troops or police under his personal control to achieve his personal goal.

Some people may wonder: How can a leader rule a party full of factions without forming his own powerful faction?

In Chinese history, forming his own faction and making it the only powerful faction was a common trap for a sovereign. It may easily cause the sovereign to be surrounded by a faction of treacherous fawning protégés who, like Heshen, corrupted Emperor Qianlong’s entire official system and blocked the channels for informers to expose their evils.

A wise sovereign shall have charisma to attract all talents around him no matter what factions they belong to. He is even able to win over talents from his enemy and make them his faithful followers. A great leader’s greatness lies first of all in his ability to discover and properly employ and delegate power to talented followers. Xi has proved his wisdom in dealing with domestic and external issues, but we still have to wait and see whether he is able to fill his Politburo Standing Committee with talents and find a competent successor.

Whether with the excuse of opposing power struggle or not, the large number of corrupt official may refuse to function like the officials did under Emperor Jiaqing’s reign or even begin national protests like Hong Kong police did against Governor MacLehose’ anti-corruption campaign.

What shall Xi Jinping do?

He gave people a huge surprise, which is a long story to be elaborated in my next article.

Article by Chan Kai Yee


2 Comments on “Power Struggle, The Excuse to Oppose Xi’s Anti-corruption Campaign”

  1. tito says:

    WOW…it’s hard to believe that CCP can be so complicated….China was attacked, invaded , humiliated by foreign powers and still many people in the govt don’t seem to care…..those corrupted officials have no shame …in fact many of them like to show off their wealth …Lee Kuan Yew met Xi Jinping in November 2007 and said “He struck me as a man of great breadth,” said Lee, praising the way Xi endured various trials and tribulations and worked his way up through the Communist Party. “I would put him in the Nelson Mandela class of persons.”


  2. Steve says:

    1.3 billion Chinese people supports President Xi’s campaign against rampant corruption. The military is better informed and educated compared to four decades. With military reform, strategy, advancement in military science, research and development, military officers are promoted according to meritorious service and assuming that most or all senior ranking officers serve the party first, it may not be so easy for corrupt officials to use power struggle as an excuse. At this stage, a military coup to topple the current government is just simply not possible, China will be a superpower laughing stock of the world, even Kim Jong Un will be laughing himself stupid.