It is a difficult moment for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is facing setbacks both abroad and at home.In Taiwan, the pro-China KMT party just lost big in elections this week. President Ma Ying-jeou is stepping down as head of the party, though not as head of state. The BBC reports:
“I must deeply examine myself honestly and shoulder the greatest responsibility for the election defeat,” Mr Ma said.“The results of the election tell us our reforms were not made fast enough and have yet to meet the expectations of the people, which is why the KMT failed to win the support of most voters.”The KMT said it would hold a leadership election next month.
On the domestic front, Xi’s party purge, which is being sold to the people as a fight against the endemic corruption in Chinese officialdom, is apparently not having the intended PR effect. With the purge in full stride, China fell sharply in this year’s report on perceptions of corruption by Transparency International, according to the New York Times:
[…G]lobal awareness of the scale of corruption in China is up sharply, according to the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, published on Wednesday by Transparency International, a nonprofit organization based in Berlin.A spokesman for Transparency International, Thomas Coombes, said that China’s standing was damaged by the perception among some experts and businesspeople that its anticorruption campaign was partial, opaque and politically motivated, casting doubt on its efficacy.“The campaign is just the tip of the iceberg, and is not even being done in a transparent manner,” Mr. Coombes said.The index ranked China 104th among 175 countries, a drop of 20 places from last year, and the single largest drop in terms of ranking.
The change in perceptions about Chinese corruption maybe because of the purge, rather than despite it, but it at least suggests that this campaign may not be having the desired effect of rallying the people behind a leaner, more effective government (led, conveniently, by a more powerful and unrivaled Xi). It’s not fair to read too far into these stories—they may be only temporary setbacks—but all in all it isn’t a good day for Xi.