Xi’s Graft Busters Pledge Loyalty as Reshuffle Year Begins

  • Discipline chief urges political stability ahead of congress
  • Anti-corruption agency sets internal house-cleaning as focus

China's President Xi Jinping.

Photographer: Claudio Reyes/AFP via Getty Images

Xi Jinping’s top graft-busters vowed political loyalty Sunday as the Chinese president marshals resources ahead of a pivotal Communist Party reshuffle later this year.

China’s top anti-corruption agency declared in a communique at the end of its annual meeting in Beijing that upholding the party’s leadership with Xi at the “core” was the “basic guarantee” for the country’s development, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Central Commission for Discipline Inspection chief Wang Qishan said his team at all levels must study Xi’s speeches and urged the watchdog to maintain a “sound internal party political environment” ahead of the party congress.

The twice-a-decade gathering, in which as many as 11 of the 25 seats on the Politburo may change hands, marks a milestone in Xi’s tenure as president and party chief. The CCDI has been a key instrument of Xi’s power over the past four years as some 1.2 million party members were punished, including China’s former domestic security chief and deputy commander-in-chiefs, in an unprecedented campaign against corruption.

CCDI planned to focus this year on overhauling itself to build a “reliable team,” Xinhua said, citing the communique. The “house-cleaning” effort may further bolster the authority of CCDI and its 68-year-old chief, who would step aside this year unless Xi dispenses with the retirement conventions of past reshuffles.

Core Leader

In October, the party declared Xi its “core” leader, an elevated status set to boost his authority and help him advance policy changes and personnel moves. Beijing’s municipal anti-graft agency chief Li Shulei, who served under Xi when the future president led the Central Party School from 2007 to 2012, was promoted to deputy chief of the CCDI during the annual gathering in Beijing, a high-profile post that could set him up for future advancement.

At the plenum, CCDI also endorsed prior decisions to punish two of its former members, Xinhua said, citing the communique. The body approved a report on the “serious disciplinary violations” of Wang Zhongtian and “disciplinary violations” of Li Jianbo.

Over the past four years, 38 CCDI officials were punished for corruption. More than 7,200 anti-graft officers across the country were investigated for violating party rules or corruption.

State-run China Central Television broadcast a three-part series on CCDI’s house-cleaning this week featuring the cases of 10 former senior graft-busters, including Zhu Mingguo, previously Guangdong province’s highest-ranking disciplinary official. Zhu received a suspended death sentence for taking bribes.

“Disciplinary officials will have to assert tighter control over themselves,” Wu Yuliang, a deputy CCDI chief, told a briefing in Beijing on Monday. “Those who regulate others will have to regulate themselves in the first place.”

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