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Jan 11, 2024, 5:07pm EST
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Beijing ramps up corruption crackdown

REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Pool/File Photo
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China’s anti-corruption watchdog has pledged to ramp up its crackdown on graft, with the top priority being to “severely punish” bribery involving government officials and business, it declared in a communique Wednesday.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said it would “relentlessly” root out and punish those who give and receive bribes, with a renewed focus on sectors including finance, state-owned enterprises and infrastructure.

The warning followed a speech by President Xi Jinping earlier in the week in which he called for “tenacity, perseverance, and precision” in the battle against corruption, saying that the state of affairs remained “severe” despite the “overwhelming success” of his decade-long crackdown.

Record numbers of senior officials were purged last year in a campaign experts believe may continue well into 2024, as Xi continues his attempt to root out corruption that has seen millions of party cadres disciplined since he took office.

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Despite a decade-long crackdown, corruption scandals continue to rock China

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Sources:  
Caixin Global, China Daily, Reuters, Bloomberg

China’s corruption problems taint everything from soccer to military readiness, as highlighted by a recent spate of scandals. The U.S. believes the ongoing purge of the Chinese military is due to widespread graft, including missiles filled with water instead of rocket fuel, Bloomberg reported. In a documentary aired Tuesday, the national soccer team’s former head coach admitted to bribery and match-fixing, with officials blaming the team’s sporting woes on graft. At the end of December a former Chinese central bank official was sentenced to 16 years in prison for corruption, leaking classified information, and insider trading. And in another recent film, a former deputy governor admitted to accepting so many bribes that at one point he struggled to drive up the ramp of a parking garage because his car was weighed down with 22 boxes of cash.

Xi’s ‘perpetual campaign’ sparks fear among bureaucrats

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Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, Stratfor

Chinese corruption crackdowns are “supposed to be an intense but short burst of enforcement”, Yuen Yuen Ang, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, told the Wall Street Journal — “but Xi has invented a paradoxical policy tool: a perpetual campaign.” On taking office in 2013, Xi pledged to crack down on “tigers and flies” — high-ranking officials and local civil servants alike – and the ensuing crackdown has created “a constant apprehension and reluctance by party members to act decisively,” the Journal wrote. Xi also risks stoking “unspoken resentment” among Chinese elites as the number of purged cadres grows ever larger, an analysis from intelligence firm Stratfor warned.

Corruption is down, but may have been pushed underground

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Sources:  
Transparency International, The Harvard Kennedy School, The Wall Street Journal

Despite the risk of backlash, Xi’s anti-corruption campaign appears to be seeing results. Since Xi came to power, China has risen from 80th to 65th on Transparency International’s index of corruption perceptions, where it sits just above the global average. A 2020 Harvard survey showed that the proportion of Chinese citizens who found officials to be generally “clean” rose from 35% in 2011 to 65% in 2016. But corruption may simply be getting harder to track as crooked officials and those who bribe them develop new techniques for under-the-table payments and kickbacks. China’s corruption watchdog has said it is witnessing the rise of so-called “options corruption” — deferred bribes that are only paid out when officials retire, to hide the quid-pro-quo transaction.

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