Chinese leader Xi Jinping recently took out yet another key member of a rival political faction—one whose name, incidentally, somewhat resembles his own. The downfall of Xin Jiping (not to be confused with Xi Jinping) was so low-key and swift that less discerning observers would easily miss both the event and its larger significance.
In April, the anti-corruption authorities in Shanghai issued a one-line statement concerning the investigation of Xin, formerly a senior executive at two private property developers.
Three months later, Chinese state mouthpiece Xinhua announced in a one paragraph and one line notice that Xin had been found guilty of taking bribes and defrauding the state. Xin’s case had also been transferred to the procuratorate to await formal prosecution. Missing from Xinhua’s notice, however, was the customary professional biography.
Xin being prosecuted is “very important news” because of his political allegiances, according to Shanghai-based human rights lawyer Zheng Enchong.
Xin was originally a senior official in the Shanghai municipal government before he joined the private sector, Zheng said. That Xin would eventually assume top executive positions—Xin was vice president of Shanghai Real Estate Group and board chairman of Shanghai Hongqiao Economic and Technological Development Zone Joint Development Co., Ltd.—showed that he was “from the very beginning a trusted crony of the Shanghai Gang.”
The Shanghai Gang refers to a notorious political clique helmed by former Chinese Communist Party boss Jiang Zemin. Zheng continues to suffer persecution from having tussled with the Shanghai Gang in the early 2000s while defending local residents.
“Xin Jiping once controlled land resources in Shanghai,” Zheng said. “That means Xin worked with Jiang Miankang, and can be considered Jiang’s lackey.”
Jiang Miankang, the younger son of Jiang Zemin, was once Inspector of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Construction and Administration, a vaguely defined position that gave Jiang Miankang oversight of land use, demolition, zoning, as well as planning and construction in Shanghai—a highly lucrative portfolio.
The Jiangs, however, have been losing influence in recent years.
In December 2015, Jiang Miankang was dismissed from his post as inspector, and became principal of the Shanghai Urban and Rural Construction and Traffic Development Academy.
In early April, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported that Jiang had quietly resigned from his latest post and is now in retirement. And Xin Jiping, Jiang’s associate, was officially investigated for corruption a few days after the newspaper’s story.
Zheng believes that Xin’s prosecution shows “very clearly” that Jiang Miankang is in trouble, and that Xi Jinping is “moving step by step closer toward the Jiang faction.”
Jiang Zemin’s faction ran China during his rule (1989–2002) and then continued to strongly influence the regime behind the scenes during that of former Chinese leader Hu Jintao (2003–2012). Under Jiang, many in his faction became immensely wealthy through corruption, and they were rewarded with promotions for their pursuit of Jiang’s favored political crusade, the persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline.
Shortly after taking office, Xi Jinping sought to dislodge Jiang’s faction and consolidate his control over the Chinese regime through an anti-corruption campaign. Although many elite faction members and their associates have been purged, the Jiang faction still appears to wield influence in key regime apparatuses like propaganda and domestic security.
With the regime’s “deep state” being swayed by the Jiang faction, the Xi leadership has appeared to be erratic and inconstant in implementing reform-oriented policies.
Zheng Enchong the rights lawyer anticipates the arrest of Jiang Zemin’s two sons, Jiang Miankang and Jiang Mianheng. “Xi Jinping has stripped Jiang’s sons of their official posts, frozen their assets, and now appears to be discrediting them,” he said. “As for how to handle Jiang Zemin, Xi still needs to figure out a tactful and orderly solution.”
Zheng believes that the final take down of Jiang Zemin has already begun. According to Zheng, Hu Jintao even proposed during a high-level internal meeting in April that his and Jiang’s sociopolitical theories should be removed from the Chinese constitution.
“If that happens,” Zheng said, “then Jiang Zemin will effectively be dead inside the Chinese Communist Party.”
Rona Rui contributed to this article.