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  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 6:24am
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POLITICS

Xi's 'shockingly harsh' Politburo speech signals tensions over anti-graft crackdown

President tries to silence critics, observers say, by telling Politburo that he was disregarding 'life, death and reputation' in his campaign

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 6:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 3:48am

President Xi Jinping told top officials he was disregarding “life, death and reputation” to fight corruption in a terse speech signalling a possible dispute and doubts among party elites over the campaign.

An official mainland newspaper and a person familiar with the matter confirmed the president’s statement.

Xi was believed to have made the remark in a closed-door Politburo meeting on June 26, the details of which were publicly revealed only when the city newspaper Changbaishan Daily on Monday reported that local officials received instructions from the president.

”[I] had left life and death, as well as my personal reputation, out of consideration in the combat against corruption,” Xi said, according to Changbaishan city’s party chief, Li Wei.

Li said the top leadership’s remarks emphasised a sense of crisis, and some of the words were “shockingly” sharp and harsh. However, he did not provide more details.

"We have to take the responsibility since the party and the country had put their fate in our hands,” the president was reported to have said.

Xi said “the two armies of corruption and anti-corruption are in confrontation, and are in a stalemate”, according to Li, adding that the leadership vowed to see the anti-graft campaign to the very end.

The campaign launched by Xi against “tigers and flies” (high to low-ranking cadres) when he came to power has seen scores of officials, business associates and their families either jailed, investigated or sacked.

The latest victim of the campaign is former security tsar Zhou Yongkang, the highest-level official to be netted in a corruption probe so far.

READ MORE: Zhou Yongkang's fall from grace

The Changbaishan Daily also said that Xi urged graft busters to focus on four types of officials: those who are strongly opposed by the public; those who have not restrained themselves after the party’s 18th congress in 2012; younger cadres in key positions; and those who might potentially take on more important roles.

The daily’s article was soon deleted from the website as some internet operators said they received a gag order from propaganda authorities.

A person familiar with the president’s speech told the South China Morning Post earlier that Xi made the strongly worded speech to the Politburo to counter some critics and silence doubts against his anti-corruption campaign.

Xi warned the party elites that nothing would be off limits in his anti-graft drive, the person said.

The president also rebuked the “school of thought” that the relentless drive against errant officials would only plunge the country in chaos and that Xi, in the end, would “eat humble pie”.

According to the person, Xi retorted: “What is there to be scared of?”

Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beiing, said the remarks showed the anti-corruption campaign had certainly threatened some interest groups in the upper echelons.

”The combat between Xi and the interest groups has been white-hot and Xi also realised that [it] is make or break,” he said.

INFOGRAPHIC: Zhou Yongkang's sprawling empire

Xi, in the same Politburo meeting, called on the party’s discipline investigators to inspect regions where he had worked, to prove that the campaign was not a political purge but was for the sake of the party’s future.

Both Shanghai and Zhejiang, in which Xi served as party chief, are included in the latest round of team inspections announced in July.

During the meeting in late June, Xi also urged leaders to learn from former premier Zhu Rongji, whose anti-corruption fight and economic reform earned praise.

Zhu, an outspoken politician, famously said in 1998: “Prepare 100 caskets and leave one for me. I’m ready to perish together in this fight if it brings the nation long-term economic stability and the public’s trust in our government.”

 

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This article is now closed to comments

shuike
I feel afraid for Xi. He is indeed a very brave man. Some of the guys he brought down & those he's still after have powerful friends. I wish him safety & a long life.
superdx
Corruption in authoritarian regimes is inherent, and cannot be removed, since you really only have one party in power. Xi's objective to wipe out corruption is good, and assume that he is successful by the time he leaves office. The next guy in office will bring in his own party of friends and associates and the cycle will start over again. It will never end.
Free press, transparency and term limits to power are the only tools to keeping corruption minimal.
Someone below noted that the US Congress is one of the most corrupt yet everything they do is legal. Their offices are literally for sale to the highest bidder. This is true, because there are no term limits. Just like the CCCP. They have more in common than what most right-wingers in both countries would like to believe.
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norodnik
chaz_hen: very thoroughly articulated. Well, first encounters are long remembered - to give a perfect example of the millennial root causes you described - what was the first major action that the CCP did once they assumed power - why they moved in to Zhong Nan Hai, the former crown princes' residence in the Forbidden City. Not a very comradely gesture, that.
chaz_hen
The idea of and word "Corruption" like the type Xi is purported to be fighting, if it's to be defined, is a very modern and western legalistic definition/concept.
For centuries and possibly millennia, Chinese men worked hard through study to excel in exams to be government officials because everyone knew being an official was the fast track to riches & status and for a cultured and educated man, it was above being a merchant and light years better than being a tradesman or craftsman. Heaven forbid one breaks his long pinky nail through labour!
So therefore, this long honored Chinese tradition of amassing wealth through being a gatekeeper and arm of the emperor/government survived and despite developments in political, social, theological, educational and ideological thinking, the old culture stuck through every form of government.
The modern CCP officials seem to think they're still part of that long line of pampered and special breed and are entitled to all the benefits, trappings and advantages that come with it.
I wish Mr. Xi good luck in his efforts but it seems he'll be in for a long, bitter fight and cracks may be showing.
Sifu_628
Whatever each one's perspective and political orientation, we all wish for well of our compatriots living in China. I wish for Chinese citizens the opportunity to make responsible choices for themselves and their families in a just and compassionate society. The path ahead is both treacherous and difficult, for there are entrenched factions benefiting enormously from China's corruption and exploitation of China's unrepresented mass.
shouken
It is intensely interesting to see how Xi's fight will wind up, because perhaps the majority of people in and out of China think corruption is a structural problem, and China has a structural problem. They point to China's lack of "free elections, independent judiciary, free press, good laws, a powerful ICAC". It seems that many countries already have one or more such elements but corruption still exist on a large scale. I trust that it is possible for a relatively authoritarian and centralized large state like China to gradually morph into a low-corruption jurisdiction like Singapore.
robkemp
To put a brake on corruption, you need free elections, and independent judiciary, a free press, a transparent banking system which can track cash movements, good laws and an ICAC with teeth. Xi means well but I fear corrupt money will win in the end.
guy.pant
Too bad a lot of "networking", "benefits", self-entitlement, and working the system to end the paper trail tempts many elected officials. The entire U.S. Congress is an insider trading hub and it's perfectly legal.
chuchu59
You can regard me as simple but I only hope that our motherland can weed out at least some of the corrupt officials. In this regard, regardless of his intentions, I fully support the President and hope that there are more people siding with him. Should his opponents win the battle, it bodes ill for our country. 'Purging', 'cleansing' whatever you call it, this has to be continued relentlessly.

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