• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:29pm
Zhou Yongkang

‘President Xi Jinping seeks his place in history – among the party greats’

President wants anti-graft drive to cement legacy and revive the Communist Party, princelings say

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 11:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 7:02pm

A strong desire to leave a legacy comparable to that of Deng Xiaoping and a sense of crisis over the survival of the Communist Party are driving President Xi Jinping's relentless fight against corruption, say people connected to the party's inner circle.

The president will use the crusade against corruption to sweep away resistance to his ambitious reform agenda, as entrenched interest groups have become too powerful and are reluctant to change, they say.

Xi, who greatly admires Deng, wanted to become a leader in a similar vein, who could lead China into a new era of reform and growth, said sources including senior officials and "princelings" - the children of former high-ranking leaders.

They said Xi identified himself strongly as a member of the princeling group and saw it as his mandate and mission to revive the party, whose ruling bases have been eroded by rampant corruption and bureaucracy.

Watch: China's Xi cementing power with probe into Zhou: analyst

"Xi is inspired to claim his own place in history as one of the party greats. To achieve this, he needs to consolidate power and weaken the resistance to reforms," said a princeling who has known the president for decades.

"He [Xi] could take it easy by finishing his time in office without making any major change, just like his predecessor [President Hu Jintao ] did.

"But he chose a more difficult path because of his strong sense of responsibility as a son of the revolutionaries."

The president's father, Xi Zhongxun , who died in 2002, was a party elder who helped establish the People's Republic in 1949 and later led the vanguard of Deng's economic reforms in the late 1970s.

While both his predecessors launched anti-corruption campaigns in the early days of their presidencies, Xi's drive is unprecedented.

On Tuesday, China broke the decades-old political taboo of not prosecuting the highest-ranking officials for corruption by publicly announcing a probe into former security tsar Zhou Yongkang . Just a month ago, the leadership under Xi expelled a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xu Caihou , from the party for corruption.

Xi is inspired to claim his own place in history as one of the party greats
Princeling source

In his first 20 months in office, Xi's anti-corruption drive has claimed at least 36 officials of vice-ministerial or higher rank - seven more than his predecessor Hu Jintao managed in his first three years.

"This is a party purge, aimed at people and cliques that are seen as weakening the party's legitimacy and harming its image and stability," said Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney.

"It is not so much about material wealth as such, but more about imposing a new moral image and a new legitimacy on the party. That is much more fundamental."

Party insiders said Xi was determined to use the campaign to break down the pockets of resistance to his comprehensive reform plans.

But many critics also accused Xi of using it to thwart party rivals and install his own people in power.

"Xi Jinping clearly saw corruption as a serious threat to the party and the country, but he also saw anti-corruption as a good way to build his reputation," said Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. "It certainly helped that he could install more people to his liking."

Xi has quietly installed many princelings and close allies into important posts since taking office. For instance, Chen Zhiya, a son of Communist general Chen Geng, was made the deputy minister of the People's Liberation Army's intelligence department last year on Xi's order, sources said.

"Xi trusts the princelings because he believes we share similar underlying ideas - we all treasure the party and the nation founded by our fathers and dislike officials who know no discipline or limits in their accumulation of wealth," said a princeling source.

To answer his critics, the president had asked disciplinary inspection teams to be sent to his old power bases, the source said. Both Shanghai and Zhejiang - where Xi once governed - are included in the latest round of inspections. This was to prove that Xi was ready to tackle anyone, friend or not, who violated the party rules.

A source said the president made a strongly worded speech in late June warning the party elite that nothing would be off limits in his anti-graft drive.

Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in Britain, said Xi wanted to reform the party as well as increase his power.

"Xi clearly wants both, which is to use the anti-corruption campaign to install his own people and to strengthen the capacity of the party as a Leninist instrument of control. They are mutually reinforcing from Xi's point of view."

Still, the outcome of his anti-corruption drive is uncertain.

Jonathan Holslag, research fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said there were risks.

"If the economic climate continues to deteriorate, he will be the one to attract the ire of his public. It also creates more resistance from within the system, especially when he goes after the protégés of other senior party members."

Brown said the success of the anti-graft drive would ride on the party itself. "They [the leadership] want the party to become more of a vanguard force as China continues to become a global power. If the party is weak, disorganised and chasing material profit all the time, this mission is jeopardised."

Watch: Former security chief Zhou Yongkang at an NPC meeting in 2012


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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
I fully endorse Rambo's comments and I support what Xi Jinping is doing.
Without Deng Xiaoping ( who was a true hero ) there would be no modern China, and probably no one-country-two-systems for HK
It will indeed take a leader with great boldness and courage to take China in to the next era of its development .
I sincerely wish you great success Mr Xi , as , I am sure, do most Chinese people.
If President Xi Jinping is using his power to eliminate corruption and perhaps enhancing it to deepen reforms, he is acting as required for the sake of his country and is both brave and responsible, the kind of leader sorely lacking in the West and Japan where you have only evil doers, liars and war-mongers that corrupt everything.
Jonathan Smith
China is like Singapore of the late 60's when Singapore was also in a midst of anti-corruption drive and reform. At that time when Singapore obtained Independence most Westerners believe that Singapore will soon be destroyed by it's corruption left over from the British colonialists and the aggression coming from Malaysia but Lee Kuan Yew had the vision to undertake the same kind of anti-corruption and reform drive that made Singapore what it is today. In the late 60's the Philippines was the envy in Asia but today it is even more corrupt and divided. It takes good institutions and good leaders to turn a country around. In President Xi as in Lee Kuan Yew, China will have both although it is still at an early stage. If China can model itself on Singapore and adopt the best practices from the West, it will certainly succeed in it's reform programs.
Comparing Xi Jinping to Stalin and Hitler??
As victim of previous wars, China always craft peace under the principles of fairness and justice. China has good relationships with nearly all its neighbouring countries except for Japan and the Philippines, with which it has territorial disputes. This policy is, on the contrary, opposite to Stalin and Hitler’s aggressive invasion strategy.
Xi has proven his strong leadership on what he has done so far. We should celebrate having such a great leader leading China.
Invalid criticism reveals negative attitude and bias against the PRC Government.
Quote: "Bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can’t go anywhere until you change it."
How obsequious and fawning for a so-called Rambo.
Dumb nations with people who can't think for themselves need "brave and responsible" leaders.
Xi is getting rid of oppositions and competition in disguise as anti corruption campaign. All the corrupt people under him are fine.
All the corrupt people under him are fine. - Care to name a couple?
"China has good relationships with nearly all its neighbouring countries except for Japan and the Philippines..."
You sure you don't want to amend this?
Well if u use your power to try to make enemy with every country that dont agree with tour wiew as China does now . I cant see XI is beter then dictators as Stalin, Hitler and so on. As i see it XI dont want peace he wish to achive world dominatipn with himself in the top.
Xi still needs to take the decisive step and create a wholly independent anti-corruption agency in the mold of the ICAC.
Singapore and Hong Kong have both benefited greatly from their respective agencies.



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