End of the Shanghai Gang?

Hi all, Lisa here for Richard. I’m reposting something from my blog that’s a few days old but hasn’t been covered here yet (other than in comments). I’m not as prolific as Richard but I’ll try to keep the front page somewhat fresh in his absence. Any suggestions for posts, please drop me a line.

The Los Angeles Times’s Ching-Ching Ni reports that the head of Shanghai’s Communist Party and protege of former President Jiang Zemin has been charged with corruption:

Chen Liangyu, who served as party secretary of Shanghai and as a member of Beijing’s ruling Politburo, is the highest ranking official in more than a decade to be targeted in a campaign against corruption.

The investigation into Chen centered on the misuse of Shanghai’s social security funds for illicit investments in real estate and other infrastructure projects, according to the New China News Agency. Chen is accused of shielding corrupt colleagues, and abusing his position to benefit family members…

…Analysts say Chen’s downfall also appears to be part of a carefully orchestrated plan by President Hu Jintao to consolidate his power ahead of next year’s party congress and to clip the ambitions of his predecessor’s allies.

“The Jiang Zemin era is over, the Shanghai Gang is being dismantled,” said Cheng Li, a China expert at the Brookings Institution.

Unlike deadly factional rivalries past, the slow-motion purge of Jiang Zemin’s allies seems to have been acomplished as much through consensus as struggle:

Hu most likely consulted the 80-year-old Jiang and won his tacit agreement to sacrifice his protege and preserve his own legacy, Li said.

“Remember when he agreed to publish Jiang’s biography last month and launched all those study sessions of Jiang Zemin thought?” Li said. “This is part of that deal.”

In June, Beijing made a high-profile example out of one of its own. Liu Zhihua, a Beijing vice mayor who was overseeing construction for the 2008 Olympics, was fired on corruption charges. A succession of other leaders at the provincial level has also faced dismissal or jail.

Perhaps as important as consolidating power here is providing a high-profile example that Hu and his administration are serious about dealing with the corruption endemic to today’s China in general and the CCP in particular. But whether a CCP without any political competition or watchdog other than its own interests and some tenuous notion of the Greater Good can actually rein in expressions of its unfettered power seems somewhat akin to asking an alcoholic to manage a liquor store and expecting the books to balance at the end of the month.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

With all the palm-greasing in the name of “doing business” one sees and even participates in, you have to wonder where the line is that defines ‘corruption’. Nepotism and Cronyism are two of the three “World’s Most Famous Chinese Inventions” (along with Bureaucracy) – well, aren’t they? They certainly exist arm in arm – across business and government alike. Twas ever thus – twill ever be….

October 2, 2006 @ 10:12 am | Comment

As I recall, what they got Liu Zhihua on was not so much “corruption” (though to be sure he was into that) as the “dissolute lifestyle” euphemistically referred to by the official notice: he had a McMansion out in the Beijing suburbs stocked with girls, and would spend his weekends ripped to the tits on Viagra attending to same.

October 2, 2006 @ 10:19 am | Comment

It was surprising and encouraging that Chen got the axe, but let’s face it, if every Chinese official guilty of corruption were given the pink slip, Wu Yi would be wandering around the corridors of Zhongnanhai alone.

That leads me to strongly suspect that like most “corruption probes”, the motivation here was political, not any serious desire to deal with a system that is corrupt to the very core.

Oh well, as long as the result is at least one less public offical siphoning from the public trough, at least there is some good in that.

October 2, 2006 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

I must say that China fights corruption better than many other developing countries around asia.

The CCP deserves praise for that.

October 2, 2006 @ 10:01 pm | Comment

Here’s a list of the most corrupted nations in the world:


October 3, 2006 @ 7:31 pm | Comment

Leo, certainly there are many countries with a worse corruption problem than China. However, not many of them have ambitions to be a world leader, and it seems that most Chinese citizens consider corruption to be a huge problem.

October 4, 2006 @ 1:27 am | Comment

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