China’s graft-busters set to finalise ‘super agency’ plans as war on corruption hots up
Creation of a National Supervisory Commission likely to top the agenda as members of country’s top graft watchdog convene in Beijing
Members of China’s top anti-corruption agency gathered in Beijing on Thursday to set the agenda for the year ahead, with the final preparations for the creation of a “super” graft watchdog expected to be top of the agenda.
The three-day closed-door meeting of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) is the first since its new membership was elected at the national party congress in October, a meeting at which President Xi Jinping secured a second term in power.
The anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi since coming to power five years ago is the most sweeping and ferocious in Communist China’s history. More than 1.5 million cadres, including officials from the highest ranks of the party and military, have been disciplined or prosecuted for graft or disloyalty.
The campaign was spearheaded by Xi’s right-hand man and close ally, Wang Qishan, but the baton was passed to Zhao Leji, the new head of the CCDI, at the leadership reshuffle.
As the crowning political achievement of the president’s first term, observers are keen to see where the campaign will go next.
Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Clean Government Centre at Peking University, said that this week’s plenary meeting should provide a good idea of the CCDI’s plans.
“This is the first year of the post-19th-party-congress era. [The meeting] will give answers to how the anti-corruption campaign will proceed … and what the policy direction is,” he said.
While it would not be until the meeting had ended and a statement issued that such information would be made public, Zhuang said it was possible to speculate on the CCDI’s likely direction based on the work report issued by the agency at the party congress.
That document stipulated that one of the primary goals for the watchdog was the creation of a National Supervisory Commission, a single agency that would integrate all of the existing anti-graft bodies from both the party and government.
With the authority to pursue not only party cadres but all civil servants, the new organisation is expected to take a more institutionalised approach to fighting graft, rather than the campaign style adopted under Xi’s first term.
A pilot scheme, trialled in Beijing and the provinces of Zhejiang and Shanxi, is now being rolled out across the country, and a national supervision law is expected to be passed at the annual legislative meetings in March.
This week’s meeting will be the CCDI’s last before the new commission is founded.
Another agenda item will be tackling the “four forms of decadence” – formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance – that are thought to dog cadres’ working styles.
In December, Xinhua released Xi’s sharply worded criticism in which he warned that efforts to resolve such problems should never end, and that all officials should re-evaluate their performance.
“Fighting formalism and bureaucratism will be a key focus in the party’s efforts to correct cadres’ undesirable working styles, and will be prominently featured in the communiqué of the meeting,” Zhuang said.
Xi has said repeatedly that the ongoing war on graft and disloyalty would be “carried through to the end”.
In the short time since the party congress ended, five ministerial level officials have been placed under investigation for graft, including the country’s former internet tsar Lu Wei.
Zhang Yang, a former top general suspected of serious discipline violations, committed suicide in November, while Fang Fenghui, once the youngest commander of a People’s Liberation Army military region, is being prosecuted for bribery.