Xi Jinping’s biggest ally returns to the limelight to support Chinese leader’s war against poverty

Top graft-buster Wang Qishan tends to keep a low profile but has ramped up his public activities to support the president’s poverty alleviation programme

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 3:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 2:48pm

Wang Qishan, China’s powerful top graft-buster, tends to keep his public appearances to a minimum and shows up on state media only occasionally.

But the past fortnight has seen Wang become more active publicly as he follows up on President Xi Jinping’s poverty alleviation programme.

On Monday, state media reported that Wang chaired a national video conference on corruption prevention and inspection as part of the poverty alleviation campaign.

And less than two weeks before that, on June 22, state media reported Wang had wrapped up a three-day tour in Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China, where he inspected local anti-corruption operations.

Poverty alleviation ranks alongside fighting corruption in Xi’s policy priorities, and is one of the Communist Party’s “Two Centennial Goals” that aim to comprehensively establish a moderately prosperous society by 2020 – the centenary of the party’s founding.

Xi pledged in October 2015 to lift China’s remaining 70 million impoverished people out of poverty within five years.

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At Monday’s conference, Wang pledged to severely punish officials involved in bribery or embezzlement of funds reserved for poverty relief work. He also said local officials would be held accountable for inflating results of their jurisdictions’ poverty alleviation efforts.

“Officials who dare to move the cheese of either capital or assets designated for poverty alleviation work will definitely be subject to severe punishment,” Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

Wang’s movements are being watched even more closely than usual these days, amid claims laid against him and his relatives by fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui, whom Beijing has currently placed on Interpol’s wanted list, and the fall of several top financial regulators and high-profile financiers.

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For the past five years, a public disappearance by Wang, a central figure in Xi’s unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, has invited China watchers’ attention for clues of any looming graft crackdown.

Wang’s return from a public absence has often been followed by the fall of a top official.

For instance, in June 2014, Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, was kicked out of the party and transferred to the prosecution department in the military, a few days following Wang’s return from a mysterious disappearance that had lasted more than a month.

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In July 2015, the Politburo approved to send Guo Boxiong, another former CMC vice-chairman,to prosecutors after Wang reappeared after a public absence that lasted more than 20 days.