Purge on PLA still shows War on Corruption is still about liquidating rivals. But, the seismic waves go beyond that.

A blog post

The NYT article quotes Phillip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University in Washington that

‘So far, investigators have only investigated former senior members of the Central Military Commission, rather than those appointed by Mr. Xi.“It seems to be strategic in who they’re going after and not going after,” Mr. Saunders said. “There are people being made an example of within the P.L.A., but it’s not the people at the very top. This achieves the purpose of warning them to tone down corruption without the political cost.”And yet, I hear from many of my friends on the mainland that the vast majority of people in China believe this is a genuine war on corruption. That just comes to demonstrate the effectiveness with which CCP propaganda has shaped news about the campaign. It is no wonder why Xi Jinping remains a very popular leader amongst the Chinese public.’

That said, I do believe that this purge, intended or unintended, is having an impact on corrupt practices across the board.

It was surprising to hear from many people in mainland China that they genuinely believe Xi’s campaign is not about purging rivals–a notion which countless western media reports have dispelled–and that corrupt practices are really in decline. 

NYT’s Andrew Jacobs interviews seem to echo this too: “In nearly two dozen interviews, many Chinese said that they thought Mr. Xi was serious about taming official graft and that party officials big and small had scaled back their most egregious abuses.”

Call it a brilliant piece of propaganda and censorship by the CCP. But, if corruption had been as rampant as it has been said to be, ordinary citizens from all walks of life must have had first-hand experiences of corrupt practices in their dealings with government officials. And if those people start believing that Xi’s campaign is genuinely making a dent on corruption across the board, regardless of its hidden purpose, that might not be too far fetched.

For instance, the campaign has evidently shaken businesses. Obviously those executives under investigation may have links to Xi Jingping’s rivals, especially Zhou Yong Kang (with extensive links in energy sector), but it is clear that the waves have been felt beyond those circles. There are many reports of investement and other business deals (of which illicit transfer of cash is a key enabling mechanism) simply being postponed or cancelled due to sweeping investigations in the sector. Some of my contacts in businesses, especially energy companies, have told me that a tense atmosphere has got a hold of the sector and that everything is being conducted with much more caution.

Indeed, it does not seem entirely implausible that those “non-rivals” may feel the chills as rivals are forcibly taken in for arranged trials and life-ending punishments. Whether such impact would be lasting enough to scalp away corruption from Chinese culture and prompt a systematic change where corruption can never breed again, however, remains to be seen.

photo by flickr user
thierry ehrmann

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