Xi Jinping

Chinese president accuses fallen top officials of ‘political conspiracies’

Comments in address to party leaders point to power struggles behind dramatic downfalls

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 11:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 11:41pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping has accused five disgraced Communist Party heavyweights of ­involvement in “political conspiracies”, signalling power struggles – and not just corruption – led to their downfalls.

In a keynote speech to party leaders in October, Xi said Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou and Ling Jihua “all engaged in political conspiracy activities”, according a copy of the address published by Xinhua on Sunday.

“[The five were] not only greedy financially and corrupt in their lifestyles, but were also politically ambitious, often agreeing in public but opposing in secret, and forming cliques for personal ­interests and engaging in conspiracy activities,” Xi told the sixth ­plenum of the party’s Central Committee.

Zhou had a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee and the other four were either members of the Politburo or the party’s Central Secretariat, the organisation’s nerve centre.

Zhou was the most senior official convicted of economic crimes in the party’s 95-year history.

Guo and Xu, both former Central Military Commission vice-chairmen, were the most senior People’s Liberation Army officers to ever be convicted of corruption.

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Xi has lashed out in the past at “political schemers”, “careerists” and “factionalism” within the party but this time he pointed the finger at the five. He also questioned the political commitment of some party members, citing the five officials as examples of those who had strayed. Xi also attacked nepotism and the selling of promotions within the party, saying abuse of power, corruption as well as legal and disciplinary violations were spreading.

The comments add fuel to some analysts’ views that Xi’s sweeping anti-graft campaign and the officials’ downfalls were politically motivated to consolidate the president’s power.

The publication of the full speech comes amid a reshuffle in the top ranks in the run-up to the 19th party congress this autumn. Five of the seven Politburo Standing Committee members – barring Xi and Premier Li Keqiang – as well as another six ­Politburo members, are due to step down.

Beijing-based commentator Zhang Lifan said the anti-corruption campaign was not just about cleaning up politics but also about power struggles. “Xi’s speech says a lot about the considerations behind arresting the five people. It was about ‘political conspiracy’,” Zhang said.

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The strong wording also reflected Xi’s concerns about subversive actions and less-than-full confidence about the party congress, Zhang said.

Xinhua did not give details of the conspiracies, though the five were convicted of charges ranging from economic crimes, to corruption and leaking state secrets. But party mouthpieces including ­Qiushi magazine said such schemes included attempts by people to form their own ­“regimes”.

Some observers said that while Xi had attacked factionalism, he had also tried to form a faction of his own by appointing a series of his former associates to senior ­positions in past few years.

Analysts said Xi’s top priority this year was to consolidate his power at the congress.

The October plenum was said to have focused on ideology and “party building”. But the conclave also designated Xi as “core leader”, meaning the highest-ranking leader on par with late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng ­Xiaoping.