It may come as a shock to well-educated Westerners that Communists can be corrupt. Yet in 2013, “China was ranked 80th out of 178 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, on par with Serbia and Trinidad and Tobago, ranking less corrupted with tied countries Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Jamaica, Panama, and Peru” — and worse than Sri Lanka. Most corruption is concentrated in the Communist Party of China because the party hands out all the goodies.
It’s so bad that scholars think corruption is China’s major national security problem. “China specialist Minxin Pei argues that failure to contain widespread corruption is among the most serious threats to China’s future economic and political stability.” Despite the recent boom which produced goodies to go around, the competition between factions is so great that last week China was openly wracked by the biggest purge since the bad old days of Mao and the Gang of Four.
To appreciate the scale of the purge, imagine a man with the police power of Eric Holder, the wealth of Bill Gates and the prominence of Al Gore arrested — together with US senators, former cabinet secretaries and hundreds of merely famous people and herded into a kangaroo court – prosecuted by the equivalent of president Obama, in consultation with presidents Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The Sydney Morning Herald says:
On Tuesday evening, China announced an investigation into the 72-year-old former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, one of the nation’s most feared political identities, and a man who once controlled the country’s police force, state security and lucrative state oil monopoly.
Mr Zhou, as a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, is the most senior official ever to be investigated for corruption since the founding of the Communist Party – breaking an unwritten rule that standing committee members, past or present, should effectively be immune from investigation in the interests of party stability.
Purges are the elections of the left, but there’s nothing high minded about them. Although president Xi Jinping is portraying himself as Eliot Ness to Zhou Yongkang’s Al Capone, a long article by Reuters believes it’s just another power struggle. The fallen Zhou Yongkang used his position and the oil billions he controlled to create a network of patronage whose power became so vast it threatened to rival Xi and the CPC leadership itself. Now president Xi Jinping is burning out the nest — and perhaps — redistributing the zillions to himself and his followers.