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How Xi Jinping secured his political primacy with an anti-corruption campaign

By Zegang Ren - posted Tuesday, 13 February 2018

On taking office in late 2012, the Communist Party's President Xi Jinping faced a serious situation. On the surface, China was on its way to overtake the US as the world's largest economy. But in reality, this economy was under great pressure: Chinese society was highly divided and the level of dissatisfaction was also high.

Millions of disadvantaged people are now effectively denied access to quality healthcare and education while emigration has become fashionable among the rich, who admire the better environmental amenity, better social services and the civic order to be found elsewhere. Millions of Chinese tourists spend billions of yuan abroad on services and products ranging from luxuries to basic white goods. The divorce rate is on the rise as the sexual revolution in China gets under way. Corrupt practices and cheating in business is widespread. Millions turn to Christianity and Buddhism.

Above all, it is the change in the political ecosystem in China that represents the biggest threat. The marriage between political power and capital over the last decades has led to factions and clans within the Communist party. These factions and clans have severely eroded the party's unity and its administrative capacity. If this trend persists, China is in danger of disunity, and the consequent loss of opportunities for societal improvement, as a result of internal clashes between political forces from different backgrounds. A loss of support from the people would bring about a Soviet-Union style collapse in China.


This daunting reality has prompted those of the left wing to openly denounce Deng Xiaoping for a reform approach that has weakened the Communists' power, drained state assets and polarised society. Those of the right wing claim the only way out for China is to totally privatise the state-owned economy, free the media from political control, and set up a multi-party parliamentary system to check the abuse of power.

In the face of this situation, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized that China should not make the fundamental mistake of discarding the one-party political system. He says China needs the party to be the backbone for these reforms and that only an effective and highly disciplined party can carry out further reforms and be the ultimate mediator for the redistribution of national wealth.

He told Party members that any hesitation in upholding the leading position of the party would open the floodgate to criticism and lead to formidable and destructive organized opposition. On the other hand, Xi Jingping knows that in order to secure the upper hand in the political front he has to address the problems of abuse of power and social disparity. His offensive strategy has been an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign.

Since the 18th National Congress of the party in 2012, Xi has initiated the largest anti-corruption campaign in new China's history. To date, the campaign has "netted" more than 240 high-ranking officials, ranging from government ministers, governors of provinces, senior executives of major state owned corporations to military generals. The disgraced include more than 10 leaders and generals at the very top level. More than 140,000 government officials at medium and lower rank have been indicted for corruption.

This anti-corruption campaign has won President Xi Jinping wide support. First, it has ruled out the possibility of a Soviet Union-style collapse in China; second, it has reinforced the authority of the central government, and ; third, improvements in efficiency and transparency should increase the success rate of the government in tackling inequality.

President Xi Jinping has reinforced his status as China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong in the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party in October, 2017. He has declared that China has entered a "new era" and vowed to build China into a very powerful county.


His strong political primacy provides a solid foundation for the implementation of President Xi's agendas. However, his success will be ultimately judged on three measures: can China secure a successful upgrade of its economy? Can China keep corruption at bay? And can China also ensure a fair distribution of national wealth? There is still a long way to go.

Ren Zegang

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About the Author

Ren Zegang is an immigrant to Australia from China and the editor of

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