How Serious are Beijing's Efforts to Root Out Corruption?
sentenced to 13 years in prison. Lei was the Communist Party secretary in the central city of Beibei, and his case began late last year with a video of him cavorting with an 18-year old mistress. It quickly became a national sensation, an emblem of Communist Party corruption. He was later charged with bribery and corruption crimes.His conviction suggests that the Chinese government is getting serious about corruption and extravagance at the highest levels of the Communist Party bureaucracy. Last week, Xi Jinping announced a new year-long effort to clean up the Party, and has sought to portray corruption as one of the most dangerous threats to the success of the Party and the prosperity of the nation.But how serious is he? Is it all just for show? The New York Times report on Lei’s case is hopeful that Xi is serious, but the reporter skims past a crucial comment from the blogger who first broadcast the sensational images of Lei and his mistress: “Lei Zhengfu was not a high-level official….I don’t see much hope of the party and government really taking on corruption. Each generation of leaders vows to do that, but the results are plain to see. We don’t hold much hope.”Over at ChinaFile, a handful of China experts agree that Beijing’s anti-corruption efforts can only go so far. “Xi Jinping’s overriding aim is the preservation of Communist party rule in China,” writes Roderick MacFarquhar, a professor of history at Harvard. “[H]e cannot have a thorough-going anti-corruption drive that could target his senior colleagues and their cronies. A few egregious cases that become public may have to be prosecuted…but it is highly likely that the main targets of the drive will only be middle- to lower-ranking officials.”The public, in some quarters, might be disappointed. But as a recent poll tells us, Chinese citizens remain overwhelmingly supportive of the government, despite its extravagance.[Xi Jinping photo courtesy of Shutterstock]