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Crony Communism in China

Oct 17 , 2014

When Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption campaign shortly after becoming the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in late 2012, most observers thought he would merely go through the motions, jailing a few senior officials and then carrying on business as usual. His predecessors, after all, had used anti-corruption investigations largely to eliminate their political opponents and consolidate power. Disciplinary actions would spike during the year following a new leader’s appointment and fall the year after that.

But Mr. Xi’s campaign goes well beyond any immediate desire to establish his political supremacy. It is unprecedented in sweep and ambition, taking on the class of 5,000 or so very senior officials who operate the most vital organs of the C.C.P., the government, the military and state-owned enterprises. Its goal is no less than to upend the unspoken system by which China’s elites have been governing since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989: a self-reinforcing web of relations based on patronage and corruption. As a leader driven by a historic mission to safeguard the C.C.P.’s rule against all odds, Mr. Xi sees endemic corruption as a serious threat to the regime’s long-term survival.

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