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Survey Says
Xi’s Purges Face Popular Backlash

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign was supposed to make the Party’s Beijing leadership more popular, but it seems to be having the opposite effect. A survey of 83,000 Chinese citizens found that a majority thinks Beijing is at least as corrupt as the provinces and local governments. The FT reports:

Xi Jinping’s high profile anti-corruption campaign has fallen short of its stated goal and appears to be doing more harm than good to the image of China’s Communist party, according to new academic research and an analysis of official statistics.

The Chinese president’s drive against graft, now nearly four years old, is one of the most powerful and far-reaching campaigns in the country since Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. But a new study suggests that it has backfired, with citizens often blaming local graft on the central government rather than on regional authorities, while an FT analysis indicates that the odds of officials being punished for corruption are slim.

The anti-corruption efforts were supposed to help the central authorities in Beijing consolidate power through several mechanisms. First, they gave Party officials an excuse to go after political enemies. Second, they were a winning issue in a country which has long struggled to rid itself of graft and distrust. The way this was supposed to work, the Party would prove it had the interests of the people at heart by taking down local corrupt businessmen and bureaucrats. Things aren’t working out that way.

Even if they had proven popular, the purges were a high-risk proposition from the start. By pitting official against official and by uprooting so many powerful individuals, Xi has caused immense unrest and uncertainty. Moreover, he has done so at a time when China doesn’t exactly need more cause for trauma. To be sure, the anti-corruption campaign still has the potential to make it easier for Xi to push through reforms because he will have a better grip on power. But it’s not clear that those reforms are coming soon anyway.

It’s always dangerous to call a policy a failure before it has played itself out. But it seems clear that the anti-corruption campaign is having some problematic side effects, and that it’s making an already-unstable situation even more so.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    How is it that the top 70 officials in China are worth over a combined $100 Billion, when they have worked their entire lives for tiny government salaries? Corruption is several hundred times greater in China than it is in the US.

    • Observe&Report

      Much of that wealth is made up of sizeable property portfolios in the West.

      • Jim__L

        Rumor has it that much of Silicon Valley’s property spike has been fueled by Chinese money — e.g., “The Chinese own most of Saratoga”, and the fact that many neighborhoods in Cupertino are becoming predominantly Chinese-language.

        • Observe&Report

          For a country that’s supposedly going to replace the US as the next global superpower, it’s odd that so many of its people can’t wait to get out of dodge.

          • f1b0nacc1

            I am reminded of the hysterics of the 80s who assured us that within a generation the Japanese would be the worlds dominant power.

          • Jim__L

            Why is that odd?

          • Observe&Report

            It’s not quite a hard rule, but in general one doesn’t desert a ship that’s structurally sound and sailing smoothly.

            Furthermore, one of China’s biggest economic problems is capital flight, particularly rich Chinese parking their cash in overseas bank accounts and property portfolios. Why is that odd? The same reason it would be odd for account holders to make a run on a healthy bank.

            I’m not predicting a “China collapse”, that’s extremely unlikely. But if the Chinese economy were as healthy as the CCP would have us believe, why are so many wealthy Chinese moving overseas and taking their money with them?

          • Jim__L

            I think that the absence of rule of law in China is an adequate explanation for Chinese parking their assets in the United States. If you thought that the US government was run in a way that might lead to you arbitrarily being targeted for a purge, wouldn’t you want to have a well-feathered bolt-hole of some kind? That’s completely independent of what you thought of that government’s long-term prospects.

            You could be right, thinking that China’s on the verge of collapse is another explanation that fits the facts. My concern is that “Oh, China’s going to collapse any day now” might be wishful thinking on the part of people who are (quite naturally) partial to the US.

          • Observe&Report

            I agree in principle that absence of the rule of law is an important factor, but it’s incomplete without the “c” word: corruption. Many, if not most, of these wealthy Chinese are card carrying CCP members if not actual officials. How does one make such a fortune off a public servant’s salary? And if you’re not a public servant, how do you get rich without the right political connections in a country entirely subject to a one-party apparatus? As post-soviet Russia attests, corruption and the resulting outflow of purloined cash and other assets is both a symptom and a cause of a faltering economy. Granted, in many ways this may be an apples-and-oranges comparison, and China today is, on balance, a much better run place than post-soviet Russia was, but the similarities can’t be ignored.

            For a case in point, have you ever wondered why the Chinese invest so much time and energy into stealing foreign tech? Hint: the answer starts with a “c”.


            One final thought: I don’t think we should be hoping for a “China collapse”. China is a rival and a competitor, and one with scant regard for human rights or international law, and we should absolutely thwart them whenever they try to bend or break the rules or threaten our allies. But if China were to actually suffer a political implosion, the chaos in Syria and would barely warrant a footnote in comparison.

        • Angel Martin

          Chinese money has been a major factor in the Vancouver, B.C. real estate bubble. Even Chinese “university students” are buyers.

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