Last week’s execution of a former top banker at one of China’s largest state-controlled asset management firms set a record – never before had a senior Chinese financial official been put to death in such a swift manner. Lai Xiaomin, former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management, was sentenced to death on January 5 by the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People’s Court, convicted of accepting US$277 million worth of bribes. The Tianjin High Court rejected his appeal on January 21. And on Friday, just eight days later, the 58-year-old’s execution was carried out . A legal procedure that usually goes on for months or even years was wrapped up in less than four weeks for a man who was once one of the most high-profile of Chinese bankers. Lai’s sentencing, without the usual reprieve period, was already shocking. His quick execution – the manner of which remains undisclosed – is even more extraordinary. This has fanned widespread discussion as to whether Lai deserved to be shown mercy, particularly as his cooperation with investigators was described as being “meritorious” in state media reports. China’s top anti-corruption body gathers to map out strategy in Beijing The sheer size of his ill-gotten gains – totalling almost 1.8 billion yuan – is staggering. In a documentary that aired on state television, Lai was shown to have hidden away about 270 million yuan in cash in a flat that he nicknamed “the supermarket”. It showed bundles and tall stacks of 100 yuan notes – an insult to a country where 600 million people earn around 1,000 yuan a month . But the amount that Lai had amassed was just one factor in the court’s ruling. The official Xinhua news agency reported that Lai’s conduct “endangered national financial security and financial stability” – a charge that goes far beyond personal greed. Xinhua said Lai had “caused extremely heavy losses for the nation and the people”, for which he must be subject to the maximum punishment. Thus, Lai’s swift execution sends the sternest of warnings in matters concerning corruption and financial risks. China approves arrest of former Hainan official on corruption charges China’s financial exuberance since 2008 has made the industry a hotbed for corruption, and has exposed financial troubles that are frequently rooted in corruption. For instance, Jiang Xiyun , the chairman of the Bank of Hengfeng from 2008 to 2013, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in 2019. And his successor, Cai Guohua, received the same sentence in an initial ruling. Cai has appealed. As China is trying to boost domestic consumption and narrow its wealth gap, conspicuous corruption activities – Lai was known for his decadent lifestyle with multiple lovers – are increasingly intolerable for Beijing. More importantly, as the country is trying to fix its weak links and vulnerabilities amid a strategic rivalry with the United States, wasting financial resources and creating additional risks for the financial system simply cannot be excused.