Since taking office in 2013, Xi Jinping has been on a mission to root out corruption among the ranks of the Communist Party.
Xi, whose efforts have affected both high-ranking officials and those lower on the totem pole, is keen on re-establishing party discipline. Policies handed down from on high often lose their teeth while filtering down through the sprawling party ranks. As The Atlantic put it last year, Xi wants to correct that by “reforming [China’s] very political culture.”
The problem is “made more urgent by a slowing economy,” an economy which desperately needs to be reformed. “Reform, however, requires the ability to enact policy,” The Atlantic flatly adds. “That in turn necessitates bureaucrats who follow the central government’s orders.”
Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has ensnared scores of officials from the prominent (the “tigers”) to the obscure (the “flies”), and as Foreign Policy wrote on Thursday, “the CCDI [just] released a communiqué promising to maintain ‘unabated forces and unchanging rhythm’ in pursuing the goal of a China where, as Xi put it, officials are ‘unable and unwilling to engage in corruption.’”
Some 1,500 officials have seen their cases publicly announced. All 1,500 are represented in the following excellent interactive graphic from ChinaFile called “Catching Tigers and Flies.”
We can only hope ChinaFile will create a similar tool for Beijing’s sweeping effort to arrest short sellers and market “manipulators.”
Some facts about the graphic
Of the 1,460 felled, the vast majority are officials at the local and provincial level. Officials can be sorted among the fields of mining, petroleum, law and law enforcement, media, military, real estate, and rail. But there are also sizeable groups in the fields of higher education (78) and public security (36, including former oil czar and head of internal security Zhou Yongkang and the recently sentenced vice-minister for security Li Dongsheng). One hundred seventy-five of those in the database worked for state-owned enterprises.
Like Chinese officialdom itself, the database skews heavily male, with only 69 women in total. Just three women, in a pool of 146, are so-called tigers, those whose rank is above or equivalent to that of deputy provincial or deputy ministerial level officials.
According to data provided by ChinaFile but not yet searchable in the tool above, penalties are harsh, particularly given that most violations are economic (albeit egregious). Two hundred thirty-two individuals have been sentenced under criminal law; of those, 198 have been condemned to at least ten years’ imprisonment. Fifty of those have been sentenced for life (or handed a suspended death sentence, which generally becomes a life sentence), and eight are slated for execution.
To date, the sentenced individuals in the database, just 232 people, are collectively responsible for having embezzled, stolen, or taken as gifts nearly $1 billion. Figures are pulled from sentencing documents, often easily accessible in official media or on Chinese court websites.
Sentencing documents often include other lurid details. Yang Yueguo, a relatively minor official in the southern province of Yunnan, purchased $30,000 worth of jade jewelry using public funds. Quan Xiaohui, a municipal official in the central province of Henan, kept three mistresses. And Yan Yongxi, who once presided over Beijing’s rural Mentougou district, tried to hide his embezzled funds in his mistress’ gardening company. In all, the database includes some 67 individuals for whom adultery was listed as an element of their discipline violations.
Geographically, the cases are spread throughout China; but certain provinces, including Guangdong, Henan, and Shanxi — the stronghold of former president Hu Jintao’s former top aide, Ling Jihua — have seen the highest number targeted, second only Beijing. Fujian and Zhejiang, both provinces Xi once led, appear to have been dealt a lighter hand.
So far in 2016, the CCDI has announced 17 new investigations, including probes into several local officials, the head of the “clean and honest governance” unit of the prominent Fosun group, whose billionaire chairman was recently detained for questioning, and a deputy director of the Beijing office in charge of Taiwan affairs, whose investigation was announced just days after Taiwan elected a new President whose party favors greater independence from the mainland