China’s ruling Communist Party says it has investigated nearly five million members for possible bribery over the past decade, with formal criminal charges brought against 553.
It is unclear whether this will curb a growing economic slowdown and restore faith in the authoritarian system.
The party has 96 million members and has long operated its own internal system of vetting cadres, offering privileges and threatening harsh penalties for accepting bribes, selling offices or otherwise abusing authority.
At a Monday briefing on the sidelines of the party’s national congress held every five years, deputy secretary of the party’s discipline and inspection committee, Xiao Pei, said a total of 207,000 party officials had been sentenced to some form of punishment in the 10 years since party leader Xi Jinping took power.
Seeking a third term as leader of the party, government and military, Xi has made fighting corruption the hallmark of his administration.
Xiao said most of those arrested by anti-corruption investigators were long-term offenders and only 11% of those punished had committed their first offense in the past five years.
“The spread of corruption has been resolutely contained,” Xiao said, adding that “directed policies and strong pressure” had persuaded 80,000 party members to voluntarily admit violations over the past five years.
The anti-corruption campaign, one of Xi’s main policies, has been widely popular with the public and has conveniently enabled him to ward off potential rivals.
A former justice minister and a former deputy public security minister received suspended death sentences last month after being found guilty of various corruption and other abuse of power charges.
Chinese courts are beholden to the party and have a conviction rate close to 100%. After being internally investigated and expelled from the party, even senior government and military officials can expect long prison sentences, although death sentences have become somewhat rarer in very serious cases. publicized.
Xi, 69, reaffirmed the party’s full control over Chinese politics, economy and society in a speech at the opening session of the party’s congress on Sunday.
“The next five years will be crucial,” the Chinese president said in a televised address to some 2,000 delegates in the cavernous Great Hall of the People.
He has repeatedly invoked his slogan of “rejuvenating the Chinese nation”, which includes reviving the party’s role as an economic and social leader in a return to what Mr Xi considers a golden age after his takeover in 1949.
The congress will install leaders for the next five years. Xi is expected to break with tradition and give himself a third five-year term as party general secretary and promote allies who share his ideals.
Mr. Xi has his own experience of the vagaries of party justice.
Her father, Xi Zhongxun, was a former vice premier and guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought Mao Zedong’s communists to power in 1949.
A few years later, the elder Mr. Xi was taken into custody when Mao turned against his former comrades, and Xi Jinping was driven from his home during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, which banished intellectuals in the countryside and subjected many of them to brutal public humiliation. beaten in the name of the class struggle.
Mr. Xi then attended the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing and rose through the ranks of the bureaucracy in the provinces, reaching the post of party secretary – the highest position – in the largest city and financial center of Shanghai in 2007. , after his predecessor fell in a corruption scandal.
He took control of economic and military affairs and had his name listed in the party constitution alongside Mao, adding a reference to his ideology.
“Xi Jinping Thought” emphasizes reviving the party’s mission as China’s political, economic, social and cultural leader and its pivotal role in achieving the goal of “national rejuvenation”, the restoration of the country to a leading position in the world.
The president has pushed for a more assertive foreign policy and brushed aside concerns about an economy that has been hit hard by pandemic restrictions and a government crackdown on spiraling housing debt.
The economy looks set to grow by only about half of the official target of 5.5% this year, while unemployment is rising among recent university graduates to levels not seen before.
Despite the slowing economy, the government has stuck to the policy known as ‘zero-Covid’, which imposes near-daily lockdowns, travel restrictions and testing. The previous approach was seen as a success as Covid-19 ravaged other parts of the world.
As discontent simmers, especially as life returns to normal in other parts of the world, most people dare not speak out and Xi has not indicated any upcoming policy changes. health and other major issues.