• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:00pm
Xi Jinping

Xi's graft crackdown likely to worsen problem, warns leading China expert

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 May, 2014, 10:12am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 May, 2014, 10:12am

President Xi Jinping’s model of tackling corruption is only likely to worsen the problem and his repression of dissent further reveals the fragility of his regime, a leading China expert said on Friday.

Xi launched a high-profile anti-graft campaign when he became Communist Party chief in late 2012. He vowed to target “tigers” and “flies” – powerful as well as low-ranking officials, whose ill-gotten wealth he considered a threat to the party’s six-decade hold on power.

In recent months, dozens of officials have been investigated and arrested over alleged corruption. Associates and relatives of former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is himself widely believed to be under official investigation, have also been targeted.

But Professor Perry Link, a sinologist at the University of California at Riverside, believes Xi’s campaign will only breed more corruption.

Instead of steering the country towards the rule of law, Xi wants “a Maoist authority to be in charge”, Link told the Post. He was visiting Hong Kong to attend a City University conference commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

“That kind of political model creates corruption,” he said, adding that if authorities target individuals for graft, the way such people gets out trouble is to bribe other officials.

“When personal authority is the ruling power, you can target graft and all that, but you’re creating corruption more than you’re getting rid of it,” he said.

Xi’s anti-graft campaign was bound to face difficulties because he must tackle a powerful elite class, Link noted.

During the past two decades, breakneck economic growth without checks on government power had produced a wealthy elite on the mainland who could trade their political power for money and influence.

“He can’t antagonise the whole of the elite class… like the mafia class, it will fight back,” Link said. “So where do you draw the line?”

Xi can hardly afford to probe too deeply into his own family and friends’ circles, he added. According to a Bloomberg report two years ago, Xi’s extended family had amassed assets worth US$376 million.

The fragility of the Xi regime was obvious by the way the authorities had pulled out all stops to suppress dissent, Link said. It is also demonstrated by the fact that many powerful officials and members of the elite were moving their children and money abroad, he added.

That kind of political model creates corruption
Perry Link

“Their own expressions of insecurity are so strong,” he said. “If they were confident of their power, they wouldn’t spend all that money on throwing people in jail… that speaks of their insecurity very loudly.”

Rights groups say that more than 200 activists have been detained or arrested since spring last year. This year, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, more than 30 activists, lawyers and scholars have been detained, arrested or placed under house arrest, according to Amnesty International.

Link said party leaders including Xi seemed to fear that “if you don’t repress, the boat might sink”. He also noted a nationalistic mentality emerging among leaders that, because China was now a powerful economy, “we can repress and get away with it”.

But the risk of repression of dissent, such as that seen over the past few decades – including the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, and officials’ efforts to erase public memories of these events – “makes a country weaker” and leaves people “intellectually crippled,” Link said.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

I Gandhi
President Xi's crackdown on corruption is part and parcel of the law enforcement necessary under the rule of law. Professor Perry Link, a "sinologist" at the University of California at Riverside thinks otherwise. It's just like the scientologists in the US that refuses medical treatment for serious diseases, insisting that only prayers will do, while the patient wastes away and die from a treatable disease. Also as far as the Tiananmen crackdown is concerned, it is only a minor bump in history and there are more pressing things for China to do like deepening reforms, building a strong military as well as cracking down on crime, pollution, corruption and terrorism than dwelling on a minor incident in the past. The authorities in China succeeded not by following the agendas wished upon them by evil forces (does anybody remember the implosion of Yeltsin's Russia which received a lot of bad advise from US experts) but by acting on their own well thought out agendas.
Max Diethelm
I Gandhi
You write better than that “intellectually crippled” Professor Perry Link!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hollow thinking - to US, everything China does will not work!!! Be real, China is the only country with their smart leadership create a miraculous growth in a short period of about 30 years. The cause is that they do not have to listen to the so-called westerner's "China Experts". What do they know about the system - everything is base on their theories!!! Like that Gordon Chang guy - who self-claimed China Expert and wrote a book "The Coming Collapse of China" in 2001, in which he argues that the Communist Party of China is the root cause of many of the country's problems that China will collapse in 2011. Open your eyes, China grow much stronger than ever since he wrote the book!! These so-called experts got no credibility at all from people with brain cells. For people that can think, no body dare to say such kind of prediction. Might be his book is a sacred tool to stupefy the west - to make the jealousy category happy about that China will collapse. Because they are too afraid of the growing power of China that they can no longer take advantage of - like Britain selling opium and claimed as their merchandize. After the opium was burned, they allied with 7 other countries to invade and steal all treasures in China, and also grabbed the land (like grabbed the land in Africa to create their own country - S. Africa). This article has same mentality. To me and many Chinese, President Xi's model will work and effective to its full extent.
Daniel Lee
US lies have reached such an obscene level that they have become “intellectually crippled” just like the Nazis.
Cracking down on corruption will breed more corruption??? Doesn't sound right to me...
However Good ambitions Xi have of anti graft messurs it will never work if they not start to change The system in itself . Couse as it is now they semes to mostely use this anti graft messurs to get reed of political enemys . China needs to have a rule of law with indipendent and open courts. To be able to start root out coruption But that Will never happend with The rulers of China today couse they all have way to much to Lose if that happend.
strong military? yes that worked for the USSR
oh , sorry there no USSR ANYMORE
your stance is that of another corrupt buffoon wanting to keep the status quo
the vast majority of the mainlanders wants to be RID OF CORRUPTION
Graft busting won't continue forever, every leader sets an end date in order to announce its success and cement it as his personal achievement. Give it a year and the corruption will return, evil will work within a flawed system, the only way out is to change the system, instead of holding ad-hoc graft busting events.
There is a fundamental flaw in Perry Link's understanding of the matter. XJP's political conviction is, that Socialism with democratic centralism is the correct form of government for China. So the course that China has taken in XJP's eyes is fundamentally the correct one, however, things went wrong in the execution which need to be rectified in order to be able to pursue the correct way. Therefore his back-to-the-roots and anti-corruption campaigns, possibly the first earnest anti-corruption drive in China for more than 400 years. At this time, all and any action is political, regardless of the economic impact. Fundamentally, XJP does believe that the party can always be right, as long as its members and contributors are pure, earnest and have the correct view. Dissent is an important part of contribution to the party, as long as voiced through the correct channels, channels which are also subject to the current cleansing.

In my view, XJP stands up for his beliefs and acts accordingly. Viewed from that perspective, everything he does becomes logical and rational.

The flaw of socialism is and remains, that there is no "new kind of man", masses of individuals who happily sacrifice themselves for the greater good of society, no matter how much of brainwash is applied.
It's not 'graft busting' it is score settling. Every senior figure in China's government and SOEs is bent, Xi's lot as much as the others. This drive allows him to secure his power base and get rid of rivals. The next lot will do the same to his placemen in a decade's time.
in the meantime, the average man and woman in China will continue to be dumped upon.



SCMP.com Account