Corruption in China

What NOT to learn from Zhou Yongkang and Ling Jihua: Fall of China’s corrupt party ‘gangs’ a lesson for its cadres

Chinese officials warned to toe the line as Communist Party makes an example of disgraced figures in the corrupt “Petroleum” and “Secretary” factions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 February, 2016, 10:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 February, 2016, 10:11pm

China’s Communist Party cadres were warned on Tuesday to learn from the downfall of factions of corrupt officials, known as the “Petroleum” and “Secretary” gangs.

The stern warning was meant for other factions within the party, who were believed to still be operating more in their clique’s interests than in the party’s, according to analysts.

“[We] must constantly be alert of, discover and punish in time those who form their own circles within the party,” said an article published in the mouthpiece of the top anti-graft watchdog.

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“The Petroleum Gang and the Secretary Gang have already been eradicated. They are lessons to be learned and others should watch their steps. If you don’t toe the line, get out,” read the piece in the China Discipline Inspection Paper on Tuesday.

Many top cadres who had worked with the state-owned oil sector have been sacked for corruption in President Xi Jinping’s massive anti-graft drive. The highest-ranking official in the faction, known as the Petroleum Gang, was former security tsar Zhou Yongkang.

Another handful of senior officials fired for graft were part of the Secretary Gang. Among them were Ling Jihua, former top aide to ex-president Hu Jintao, and Zhou Benshun, former Hebei party boss who had served as Zhou Yongkang’s secretary.

Besides taking bribes – a criminal offence – they formed factions within the party, which is a violation of party rule.

“They were involved in both economic and political corruption,” said Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Clean Government Centre at Peking University. “They tried to contest the party’s leadership and interfere with the implementation of party polices.”

Zhuang said the warning was meant for other factions still operating within the party.

“The official wording is a warning for other similar interest groups within the party ... such as clusters in certain monopolised industries,” he said.

Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan echoed Zhuang’s view.

The ... emphasis suggests there could be similar situations of disobedience
Zhang Lifan, political commentator

“The emphasis by the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection (the top graft watchdog) suggests there could be similar situations of disobedience,” he said.

Competition within factions was likely to rise ahead of a power reshuffle at the 19th party congress meeting to take place in the later half of 2017, Zhang said.

The warning came as more than half of all party chiefs at provincial localities in the past month referred to Xi as the party’s “core”.

READ MORE: China takes rare step of naming Communist Party factions tied to disgraced top cadres

The term has in the past been used only when the party was led by a political strongman. It has been used in reference to former leaders Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, but fell out of use under the leadership of Xi’s predecessor Hu.

Analysts believe the emphasis on “core” leadership is Xi’s latest bid to consolidate power to deal with factions within the party.