China’s high-profile takedown of a massively corrupt “gem-encrusted tiger” last week made waves in the Chinese media, and it may signal the beginning of a new phase in President Xi’s ongoing party purge. That tiger, Xu Caihou, is a People’s Liberation Army general, and now the state-run South China Morning Post reports that the anti-graft campaign’s next major target may be a PLA official as well:
Investigators are still wrapping up the case against fallen former general Xu Caihou but speculation mounted yesterday that graft-busters were targeting another senior military officer.An article posted in Cha Shiju, or Political Observer, an online publication produced by mainland journalists on the WeChat platform, said there were hints that “the authorities are targeting another tiger within the military”.“His name will be announced at an appropriate time,” the article said, without giving more details.The article came after Liu Yazhou, political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army National Defence University, said at a forum last week that the investigation into Xu, a former vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, and bribery and embezzlement charges against Gu Junshan, the former deputy chief of the military’s General Logistics Department, were only the start of efforts to tackle corruption in the military.
The relationship between the executive and the military is one of the more opaque aspects of Chinese politics. China-watchers frequently debate whether Xi has significant control over the PLA leadership, since China often claims that international military incidents are the fault of “rogue generals.” For example, China denied responsibility for a jet intercept near Hainan Island earlier this year.Signals that the next phase of the purge looks to be aimed squarely at the PLA don’t entirely clear things up, but they do indicate that Xi recognizes the need to thin out the ranks of the PLA brass as he seeks to consolidate power. That process may wind up being much uglier than the civil purge has been.