Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign

China's Communist Party is struggling to guard against corruption: graft-buster

Wang Qishan also rules out chance of independent judiciary in wide-ranging interview with Stanford scholars

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 May, 2015, 6:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 May, 2015, 12:50am

More than two years into the mainland's sweeping anti-corruption crackdown and the country's top graft-buster has admitted that the Communist Party is struggling to guard against graft in its ranks, saying it is like a doctor operating on himself.

"There is huge pressure for the long-term ruling party to supervise and purify itself," Wang Qishan was quoted as saying in an article written by Tatsuhito Tokuchi, former general manager of Citic Securities.

Tokuchi and two Stanford University academics, including political scientist Francis Fukuyama, attended a meeting with Wang in Zhongnanhai - the government's headquarters - on April 23.

The article was posted on WeChat by a website for articles by academics and commentators. Tsinghua University's Centre for Industrial Development and Environmental Governance confirmed to the South China Morning Post that the article was written by Tokuchi, who is a member of the centre's council.

Wang cited the rare case of a Russian surgeon removing his own appendix to illustrate the difficulty of "self-renewal" and "self-purification".

"We realise that it is only a beginning … and we need to keep going," he was quoted as saying.

The anti-corruption campaign, launched by President Xi Jinping shortly after he came to power in late 2012, has expelled both senior and low-ranking officials.

Wang's admission came after Xi told a plenum of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in January that the party was "good at self-purification and self-reform" and had the courage to "face problems and correct mistakes", as shown by its investigation into top officials such as former domestic security chief and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang.

Zhuang Deshui, an anti-corruption expert at Peking University, said Wang's remarks showed that Beijing was facing a tougher battle than it had originally expected.

"The authorities might have thought in the beginning that hitting 'tigers and flies' would have some deterrent effect. But as the number of corruption cases and the ranks of purged officials kept growing, certain interest groups and senior officials - maybe even including those more senior than Zhou - were also involved," Zhuang said.

In the meeting, Wang also rejected the idea of judicial independence, saying the administration of law must be under the party's leadership.

He also stressed that every reform move would have a big impact in the populous country.

"When China is walking in one direction, it cannot let 1.3 billion people walk along a cliff … China should run its affairs very carefully," Wang said.

But he added that both China and the West shared common values. "China has all the most fundamental elements of human culture. [The key is] how to promote the good elements among them," he said.

But he stopped short of specifying what those common values were.

Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said Wang's choice of words showed he agreed there were commonly recognised values, but his position in the party prevented him from saying whether these values were those perceived in the West as universal.

"I think Wang is the more clear-headed one among the people within the system. He has a relatively clear understanding of what situation China is in. However, because he is an important figure in the system, he cannot give a clear interpretation of the issue," Zhang said.