Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign appears stuck in the doldrums in recent months—middling and junior Party cadres continue to be rounded up, but no senior Party cadres have been purged since the fall of three elite officials nearly a year ago.
Xi, however, a recently introduced set of Party internal disciplinary regulations that could prove to be game changing—the new regulations endanger the senior Party leadership, deepen the scope of Xi’s purge, and provide an authoritative boost to rid the Party of an antagonistic action that is believed to have been obstructing Xi’s authority.
On June 28, Xi introduced the “Chinese Communist Party Accountability Ordinances” at a meeting of the Politburo—an important conclave comprising 25 of the regime’s top officials—which he chaired.
The Accountability Ordinances are aimed at “investigating principle responsibility, oversight responsibility, and leadership responsibility” of top Party cadres, according to a report from state mouthpiece Xinhua. Xinhua published the full text of the decree on its website on July 17.
At a glance, the new Party regulations are the continuation of a two-year push by anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan to make the head of Party organs or areas ultimately culpable for the misbehavior of their underlings.
The Party continues to face discipline problems because some Party leaders “only want power, and not responsibility,” leaving their Party organizations in a state where “pacifism prevails, everyone keeps on the right side of everyone, no one is willing to be offensive, and there’s virtually no criticism,” Wang wrote in a People’s Daily article that elaborated on the purpose of the Accountability Ordinances.
But eliminating malfeasance in Party organs isn’t the sole purpose of the new Party discipline regulations. The Accountability Ordinances singles out the phenomenon of cadres forming “cabals and cliques,” as a “severe problem” and an “evil influence.”
Xi Jinping had in a January speech warned of “cabals and cliques” founded by “ambitious figures and conspirators” to satisfy their “personal political ambitions.” In other speeches by Xi, these “ambitious figures” were identified as the likes of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, former security czar Zhou Yongkang, ex-General Office head Ling Jihua, former political consultative body vice president Su Rong, and former military vice chair Xu Caihou.
The five fallen cadres whom Xi condemned in speeches published this year are connected to the political network overseen by former Party chief Jiang Zemin. Xi has been focused on rooting out Jiang’s faction through the anti-corruption campaign since plans of a coup surfaced in 2012 before Xi took office. Elements of Jiang’s faction in the propaganda apparatus have most recently sought to discredit Xi by molding a Maoist personality cult around him, according to Chinese political insiders who have spoken out over the last few months.
An added benefit of the Accountability Ordinances is how they could be used against Xi Jinping’s most entrenched and stubborn rival, according to Xin Ziling, formerly a director of the editorial desk at the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defense University.
The Accountability Ordinances “is a ‘tiger cage’ built to bring in Jiang Zemin,” Xin said in an interview with Epoch Times. “Without this investigative mechanism … Jiang can renege on a debt. He can say ‘this was done by those below me, and I only bear leadership responsibility,’ and escape with that.”
“Now with this Accountability Ordinances, Jiang can’t escape,” Xin added.
There are already signs that an investigation of Jiang is underway.
In May, Party internal disciplinary inspectors concluded a huge sweep of government agencies in Shanghai, Jiang’s longtime power base.
A source of this newspaper indicated that Jiang Mianheng, the elder son of Jiang Zemin, is now under house arrest and being questioned about his family’s personal wealth.
Jiang himself appears to have his movements restricted, and was even forcibly removed from his residence and taken to a military compound in June, according to other sources.
Also noteworthy in the Accountability Ordinances are items that allow for Party organizations to be “reshuffled,” or “handled” if the organizations or their leaders are found to have violated Party discipline.
If taken to its logical conclusion, the reorganizing of ill-disciplined Party organizations could lead to the disbanding of the Party itself, according to a retired Chinese scholar.
“The reason is simple,” said Sun Wenguang, formerly a professor at the Shandong University, speaking on the last occasion there was signaling that internal reorganization within the Party may be afoot. “Localized disbanding on a large scale is no different from disbanding the whole Chinese Communist Party organization,” he said.
Luo Ya and Xie Dongyan contributed to this article.