Since President Xi Jinping assumed the leadership of China in 2012, the most extensive anti-corruption campaign has been underway in the world’s second largest economy. What really lies behind the current campaign?



MANY PUNDITS in the West tend to dismiss President Xi Jinping’s current campaign against corruption as politically motivated. They argue that Xi is using the campaign to eliminate his opponents and consolidate his power. While there is a certain element of political retribution in the process, the issue is far more complex.


To begin with, far too many mid-ranking and junior officials across the country and from various government and commercial sectors have been swept up in the ongoing drive, the number reaching 63,000. The scope of the campaign cannot be explained as a mere power struggle. Junior and mid- level officials constitute the bulk of those caught in the anti-corruption dragnet, even though such ‘small fish’ pose no threat to President Xi and his associates. It is true that senior figures like Zou Yongkang, China’s former security tsar, have fallen, but the majority of those rounded up have been obscure officials.


Fighting for Legitimacy

What this shows is that the current communist leadership is genuinely concerned about the rampant corruption permeating all sections of Chinese society. Endemic corruption has led to a great loss of legitimacy for the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in power since 1949. Corruption took on critical proportions at the provincial and county levels, leading to thousands of anti-corruption protests and riots every year, some with deadly consequences. Provincial and county officials are generally despised by the populace and only a strong security apparatus keeps the situation under control. قواعد لعبة الروليت


In 2011 China spent US$5 billion more on domestic security than it did on external defence. Growing corruption in the provinces has led to the rise of powerful local interests that have challenged the centre’s control. Corruption and the dynamics of rapid economic growth have seen the gap between rich and poor increase significantly, further eroding the CCP’s legitimacy.


While many foreigners who live in China seldom come face-to-face with corruption, the average Chinese deals with it on a daily basis. From getting one’s residence permit renewed to trivial matters like obtaining a driver’s licence, bribery has become a natural thing. This has created a high level of resentment that could in the short-term generate severe unrest. Corruption threatens the very survival of the Communist party.