After Zhou Yongkang’s Arrest: Xi Jinping rules – but how safe will he be in [2013] 2023?

A regular stream of news from the anti-corruption front keeps flowing to keep the Chinese public happy.

Hammer and Chisel

Hammer and Chisel

Zhang Xinhua (张新华), an industrial manager, sentenced to death on Wednesday, for embezzlement of some 340 Million Yuan RMB, a China News Service (中新网) article republished here by Enorth (Tianjin) reported on that same day.

Li Zhijiang (李志江), a former member of Taiyuan’s CPC city committee‘s standing committee and former head of the party’s organizational department there, has been removed from his posts for violating the spirit of the CCP’s Eight Provisions (中央八项规定精神), neglecting his job (or dereliction of duty, 失职), and other mistakes. This seems to have happened some time ago, a People’s Daily online article, rendered here by Youth Net, wrote this week.

And former development and reform commission deputy director Liu Tienan (刘铁男) goes to jail for life, CCTV reported, also rendered by Youth Net, on Wednesday. Liu had come under scrutiny late in 2012, thanks to the research of an investigative journalist.

Zhou Yongkang (周永康) is no longer a party member, and his arrest was announced on December 5. In its Banyan column, The Economist is critical of how China’s former “security” tsar is being treated by his – also former – comrades:

He has always looked a rather nasty piece of work, and China’s press now tells us just how nasty. Zhou Yongkang is a thief, a bully, a philanderer and a traitor who disclosed state secrets. The spider at the centre of a web of corrupt patronage, he enriched himself, his family, his many mistresses and his cronies at vast cost to the government.

But some delighted Chinese readers might also wonder how Zhou could possibly make it to the top if he was such a thoroughly bad egg.

Basically all the foreign press considers Zhou’s big fall – the biggest fall of the biggest stakeholder ever since the Gang of Four – as proof that CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping is now in full control at the helm. But The Economist also warns that

[..] Mr Zhou’s case carries a danger for Mr Xi. By advertising the party as motivated by its zeal to combat corruption and as led by those promoted solely on merit, he may raise expectations of transparency and honesty that he will find hard to meet.

There are other big question marks, too. By recent standards – i. e. for the past two decades or so -, there has been an arrangement among China’s top leaders of how they come to power, and how they leave power. Any member of the collective leaderships with Jiang Zemin (until 2002) and Hu Jintao (until 2012) at the core would be a member of the politburo’s standing committee for a maximum of ten years. And no leader after Jiang Zemin would stay in power for more than ten years either.

Jiang and Hu never seem to have tried breaking that rule.

This theory of how succession works in Beijing suggests that Deng Xiaoping, after having had to sack two party secretary-generals,

made an unprecedented move – he simultaneously appointed two generations of successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. One generation had to pass on the leadership to the next after two terms, after 10 years. This arrangement had one advantage, in this way there existed a mutually constraining relationship between two generations of successors; when Jiang’s time was over, he had to pass leadership on to Hu and thus, he would not generate the courage to betray the inflated ego of Deng Xiaoping; after handing the power over, Jiang would automatically come under Hu’s authority and so in order to protect himself, he would avoid a life-and-death struggle between two factions. Hu, on the other hand, had to rely on the legitimacy granted by Deng Xiaoping so as to guarantee that he would actually take over power according to plan and also so as to avoid that he would, like many successors in the past, leave the stage in poverty and misery; hence, he was very much concerned about treating Deng Xiaoping’s ideas as his guiding principles, protecting them with everything he had.

One may wonder if Xi Jinping is going to accept the same arrangement for himself, in 2022/23. It can be hard to be a pensioner in Zhongnanhai.

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Updates/Related

» An Insider’s View, NPR Berlin, Dec 24, 2014

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10 Responses to “After Zhou Yongkang’s Arrest: Xi Jinping rules – but how safe will he be in [2013] 2023?”

  1. Hello Mr. JR, when do you plan to come to China again? Happy gathering on spring festival?

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  2. This is BLASHPEHMY!! You shall be invited for a nice cup of tea, JR.

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  3. Sounds festive enough.

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  4. Enjoy the Xmas period JR and go easy on the plum pudding.

    Enjoyed the sculpture cartoon above.

    KT

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  5. Glad to know that you liked it! (Forgot to add Mrs Peng’s eyebrows though.)
    A happy xmas season to you, too, KT. I’m looking forward to some time between the years to read (Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda – the Formation of Men’s Attitudes) and maybe doing some translation blogging here along the way.

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  6. I was glad to read this as a reality check from all the Nanking speech-making and Hong Kong-avoiding on 13 December; this is the real deal of an issue….every politician needs an escape plan, particularly CCP leaders prone to snaring tigers and not wanting to meet them later on mountain passes, even when drunk like Wu Song, overcoming those toothy beasts is harrowing work.

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  7. I basically tried to mind both the day to remember and Xi’s future to mind. Two efforts on two consecutive days. Happy new year, Adam, and keep your great » blog on North Korea going. When it comes to NK, there’s too much news and too little explanation in our media. You guys are filling a big information gap.

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