Trusted aide of China’s Xi Jinping tasked with rooting out corrupt officials, ensuring loyalty

Appointment comes as Chinese president seeks to ensure party’s absolute support ahead of national congress

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 3:48pm

A trusted aide of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been called in to combat corruption and enforce loyalty within a group of key Communist Party organisations, including the top security and economic decision-making bodies.

Shu Guozeng, a native of Hangzhou who worked under Xi when he was party secretary of eastern China’s Zhejiang province, was recently appointed head of discipline inspection at the general office of the party’s Central Committee.

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The move reflects Xi’s apparent determination to ensure unflinching commitment in some of the country’s most powerful agencies as he prepares for a second term as leader.

Created under Xi’s rule, the position has responsibility for maintaining discipline among party officials and punishing those that step out of line.

As well as the Central Committee office, Shu’s team will oversee other key bodies such as the general offices of the national security commission and the leading group for financial and economic affairs.

Shu’s appointment was revealed on Wednesday after the party’s anti-graft paper published his first article as the discipline investigator.

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“To do what is good for China, the party is the key, individuals are the key,” the article said. “General secretary Xi Jinping has warned the entire party: we are always seeking to comprehensively and strictly govern the party.”

Shu’s predecessor, Xu Lingyi, another of the president’s protégés from Zhejiang, helped Xi to take down numerous officials on graft charges.

The Central Committee’s general office – China’s equivalent of cabinet secretary – was led by former presidential aide Ling Jihua until 2012, when he was replaced by Xi’s close ally Li Zhanshu.

In December 2014, three months after Ling was put under investigation for corruption, Xu was brought in as the general office’s first investigator.

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Within a year of Xu taking over, more than 100 officials had been found guilty of wrongdoings, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Earlier this year, Xu was tasked with scrutinising officials at the local level ahead of the Communist Party’s congress scheduled for this autumn where there is likely to be a sweeping power reshuffle.

Following an investigation in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing that ended in January, Xu said it was not doing enough to wipe out the “pernicious ideological legacy” left by Bo Xilai, who fell from grace in 2012 in the country’s biggest political scandal for decades.

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Five months later, the then Chongqing party chief Sun Zhengcai, who it was widely believed had been the target of many of Xu’s accusations, was abruptly dismissed and put under investigation.

Ten days before Sun’s removal, Xu was referred to by a party publication as one of the leaders of the CCDI, indicating he had been promoted to the top anti-graft agency.

Before succeeding Xu, Shu was deputy director at the general office of the financial and economic affairs leading group, chaired by Xi himself.

Chen Daoyin, a political scientist at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that by appointing first Xu and then Shu as inspection chief, Xi was trying to ensure his absolute authority within the party organ.

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“The general office is essential in China’s political system. It passes on orders from the national leader and facilitates communication among different agencies,” he said.

“In the years since Ling left, the room has been cleaned, but Xi needs another trustee to make sure it stays clean.”

Since taking power in 2012, Xi Jinping has embarked on a sweeping anti-corruption campaign. In the past two years, dozens of discipline inspection teams, all reporting to the CCDI, have been set up in to monitor party and state agencies, as well as state enterprises.