The Chinese anti-corruption campaign is broadening to include China’s coal-rich (and therefore wealthy) Shanxi Province. There has been a number of highly public probes launched into top officials in the past week, the New York Times reports:
The Communist Party’s central agency for uncovering corruption said it was investigating two senior officials in Shanxi, following a succession of others this year. The public security chief of Taiyuan, the provincial capital, was dismissed, and reports said that he, too, faced graft allegations. And other reports said that Zhang Xinming, a Shanxi coal baron trailed by controversy, was taken away by investigators, following an inquiry into a state company that made a disputed mine purchase from him.Shanxi, with its dense web of officials, coal wealth and resource deals, appears to be President Xi Jinping’s next proving ground for attempting to persuade officials and the public that he is serious about ending entrenched graft in the party’s ranks. Five former or current members of the Shanxi party’s Standing Committee — the province’s most powerful body — have come under investigation this year, and at least 16 other officials in the province have been investigated on suspicion of corruption or other abuses of power, according to a count from the website of the party’s main anticorruption agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
President Xi Jinping’s purge has taken several significant steps recently, most notably taking down security head Zhou Yongkang and targeting Shanghai. Shanxi appears to be an especially appealing target for Xi, as it is rife with graft:
“It has coal, coal brought money, that brought corruption,” [Gao Qinrong, a journalist who was formerly imprisoned for pointing out the corruption] said of Shanxi. “With all the money around, officials threw themselves into buying and selling posts, and with the posts, they could get more coal and more money.”
Xi’s party purge has already taken out several “tigers” who previously seemed untouchable, including the brother of one of former president Hu Jintao’s top aides in Shanxi. The targeting of this wealthy province is Xi’s latest step in a continuing effort to centralize power, and perhaps become the most powerful man in China since Mao’s death. As we’ve written, the Chinese President appears to be battening down the hatches, taking risks on aggressive reforms and purges so that he, and the system he controls, will be better-placed to weather economic and geopolitical changes to come.