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Tigers and Foxes and Flies... Oh My!
Xi’s Purge Comes to America

Xi Jinping’s massive party purge of corrupt and/or inconvenient Chinese officials has been barreling along for more than a year now, and we have already seen it affect China in some unexpected ways—from hammering the bottom line of the gambling mecca of Macau to shaking the upper echelons of the People’s Liberation Army. And now it’s coming to America.

The purge has been targeting both “tigers”—senior leaders guilty of massive corruption—and “flies”—the little guys taking part in the systemically corrupt bureaucracy. Now, we can add to that list “foxes”, officials who take the fruits of their corruption abroad to avoid the consequences. Wang Qishan, who masterminded the purge, is planning a trip to the U.S. to work out an extradition plan to round up these foxes and bring them home to face the music, according to the FT.

America does not have an extradition treaty with China, so we will have to see to what degree, if any, Washington plays along with Beijing. Xi’s purge is in part a real anti-corruption campaign that sets its sights on criminals, so some form of cooperation is certainly possible. Indeed, the WSJ notes that the first signs of what such cooperation might look like are taking shape, with the Department of Justice indicting a former Chinese official and his wife accused of massive graft in China for immigration fraud in the U.S.

There is, of course, a needle that needs to be carefully threaded here. The anti-corruption campaign is also very much an old-fashioned party purge, as was widely practiced in Stalin’s Soviet Union, and having the United States get too involved in this kind of murky business holds many perils, both moral and political. Generally speaking, making the extradition process much easier doesn’t seem like a good policy move. For one thing, the U.S. doesn’t want to appear to take the legitimacy of the Chinese criminal justice process at face value. And in general, it’s not a good idea to be scaring off defectors who may have valuable information about a serious geopolitical opponent.

Wang’s trip to Washington is supposed to be a warm-up for Xi’s upcoming state visit in September. The tone set at these early meetings may tell us a lot about how the second, more formal visit will go—and how the U.S. will respond when Beijing sounds the foxhunt’s horn.

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  • Anthony

    “In my struggle against corruption, I don’t care about life or death, or ruining my reputation.” (Xi Jinping)

    Xi recognizes and intends to invest China with the spirit (China Dream) of a country among the world’s 1st rank (a guardian and creator of the country’s hopes and aspirations). The corruption/extradition campaign may be another response to expectations Xi has created among Chinese populace (“people demand that the venal and greedy be brought down, to see the breeze blow away the evil air”). Equally as important, China is a huge country (as proud and patriotic as we) and undoubtedly sees world differently than us. Consequently, all her motivations need not be the bete noire of America’s geo-strategic interest.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    Obama will be happy to help, he likes dictators. It’s only our allies that need to worry.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The number of Chinese that are fleeing China with their wealth ill gotten or not is huge. Estimates of how much money has left China and is never going back are measured in the Hundreds of Billions of Dollars. Helping China recover any of this is utterly stupid and therefore exactly what the Worst President in American History Obama will try to do.

  • Kevin

    I think that in order to extradite to country’s with questionable judicial systems the government needs to go through something equivalent to getting a conviction under US criminal law procedures – including the rights of the accused regarding evidence including calling witnesses for their defense and cross examining witnesses in open court. If China can meet this test then extradite corrupt former officials, if they are unwilling or unable to do so then do not do so.

    This is separate from the political consideration of whether as a matter of pursuing foreign policy goals we want to cooperate with regimes – if we do not (for example because their court system does not grant A ericans who have been injured there access) then the U.S. should not send them back – but this is a political consuderatio to be decided by the administration. But even if the political consideration favor extradition we should bit do so if there is doubt as to the guilt of those being extradited

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