An unexpected candidate has been chosen to become head of China’s newly created anti-corruption super body.
On March 18, the Chinese regime’s rubber-stamp parliament approved appointing Yang Xiaodu to be in charge of the National Supervision Commission, a new body that will have the power to monitor all state and public sector employees—from education, research institutes, sports, to medical sectors—whether they are a Party member or not.
Yang, 64, is currently deputy head of the Party’s existing anti-corruption agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). The CCDI will remain in existence and share responsibilities with the new commission.
Since current Party leader Xi Jinping took power in late 2012, the CCDI played a critical role in purging corrupt officials who belonged to an opposition faction at odds with the Xi leadership—namely, officials loyal to former leader Jiang Zemin.
The Commission has been described by state media as a “political organ,” leading China observers to surmise that it could be focusing on “political corruption,” or targeting Party members who threaten to usurp power from the ruling camp.
Yang’s name was not floated when observers made predictions for who would head the new Commission. This is because when the Party had rolled out regional Commission offices last year, the local Commission directors were the local sitting CCDI directors—leading many to believe that the current national CCDI director, Zhao Leji, would become the first Commission head.
A Deputy to Wang Qishan
Yang has worked in Shanghai from 2001 to 2014, coinciding with Xi Jinping’s time working as the city’s party chief in 2007. Xi has also publicly praised Yang before, indicating a close relationship, according to political commentator Tang Jingyuan.
Prior to Shanghai, Yang spent nearly 25 years of his political career in Tibet.
In 2014, he was appointed the deputy head of the CCDI, meaning he worked closely with Wang Qishan, the former CCDI director. Wang is a trusted confidant of Xi, as he led the CCDI in investigating and taking down many key Jiang faction officials. After reaching retirement age and stepping down from the CCDI role last October, Wang has recently reemerged into the political scene and was just appointed vice chair this weekend.
Yang’s well-established relationship with both Xi and Wang was likely a determinant in his getting the position, Tang said.
Tang also noted that during last October’s important conclave, the 19th National Congress, there were already hints that Yang would take on an important role. Yang had broken precedent to become the first official in 30 years to hold three key positions: the CCDI deputy head, member of the 25-most-powerful Politburo, and head of the Secretariat office—a body that handles affairs for the Politburo and its Standing Committee.
The Powers That Will Be
Upon news of Yang’s appointment, there were new readings into its political significance. An article published on the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po website noted that the Party has designated the head of the Supervision Commission a “deputy national” (fu guo ji) level position, which is the second highest within the Party bureaucracy. The CCDI director, on the other hand, is a “principal national” (zheng guo ji) level position, the highest designation.
Hong Kong Economic Journal postulated that this could mean the Commission may not be as powerful as the Party previously made it out to seem. It could simply be an expansion of the CCDI, to consolidate the Party’s anti-corruption and supervision bodies—created to prevent corruption. The Ministry of Supervision was dissolved and merged with the Commission during this month’s rubber-stamp parliament sessions. The CCDI could still be the driving force behind the Party’s anti-corruption efforts, suggested the Hong Kong daily newspaper.
Given that current CCDI director Zhao Leji outranks Yang, Zhao is poised to be his direct supervisor.
Reuters contributed to this report. Epoch Times staff members Luo Ya, Gu Qing’er, and Xu Meng’er contributed to this report.