China’s party watchdog puts loyalty above all else
Central Commission for Discipline Inspection wraps up last meeting of current term with pledge to enforce political rules ahead of power transition
The top priority of the Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog this year will be to enforce the ruling body’s political discipline and standards ahead of a major power reshuffle in the party’s top ranks.
At the end of a three-day meeting on Sunday, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said it had to ensure political rules and discipline relating to the power transition were obeyed.
The plenum was the CCDI’s last key meeting of its current term and ended with seven areas of focus for this year’s work. According to a communique released after the meeting, the fifth item on the list – after institutional reform and before routine inspections – was maintaining a tough stand against corruption.
The gathering, attended by President Xi Jinping, backed the need to uphold “centralised leadership”.
The call for party solidarity and loyalty to the top comes ahead of theparty’s five-yearly national meeting – its 19th party congress – due in the second half of the year.
Zhuang Deshui, a clean governance specialist at Peking University, said the CCDI’s call was aimed at ensuring political loyalty during the power transition.
“The power transition is the most important task this year. They want to make sure vote-rigging and office buying do not recur,” Zhuang said.
“It’s also about having everyone toe the party line.”
In the internal elections at the party congress, up to five seats on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee could be vacated, if the body’s size and retirement rules remain unchanged. Up to half the seats on the 25-strong Politburo will also be available.
Since the last power transition in 2012, corruption cases brought by the CCDI have claimed a handful of former Politburo members.
While critics say the party’s anti-corruption campaign selectively targets Xi’s political opponents, the party has insisted that many of the senior corrupt cadres were disloyal to the organisation.
In a keynote speech to party leaders in October, Xi said that in addition to their corruption, Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou and Ling Jihua “all engaged in political conspiracy activities”, according to a copy of the address published by party journal Qiushi last week. Of the five, all except Ling were Politburo members before 2012.
By endorsing a report, the plenum also confirmed for the first time that Ling’s aide, Wang Zhongtian, was investigated. Wang, also a member of the CCDI, was one of Ling’s deputies at the general office of the Central Committee, the party’s nerve centre handling daily paperwork and logistics for top leaders.
Wang was moved from the office in 2015 and reassigned to a committee to oversee hydro projects. He was removed from that job in February and has not appeared in public since.
The plenum also saw the appointment of rising star Li Shulei as a deputy of the CCDI. Li, 52, was the anti-graft chief of the capital.