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Disciplinary watchdogs seek to fight factionalism within the Party

(Global Times)    08:24, January 12, 2015

A total of 68 provincial-level officials were put under investigation last year by China's top disciplinary watchdog, the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced on Wednesday.

In total, the CCDI investigated more than 71,000 officials who violated Party regulations nationwide in 2014, and more than 23,000 officials received Party or administrative penalties.

While the public has largely applauded the anti-graft campaign, there has been widespread speculation about what the campaign's next step should be.

The authorities have discovered networks of corruption during investigations into certain high-profile cases, and are launching an education campaign as part of an updated anti-graft movement.

"Political discipline should be further enhanced and factions within the Party that are organized for group interests are absolutely not tolerated," a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee said on December 29.

"Despite a certain amount of control over undesirable work styles and corruption, the entire Party should keep its cool in the still arduous and complicated anti-graft fight," said a statement released after the meeting.

Party leader and Chinese President Xi Jinping made an earlier reference to factionalism in a CCDI meeting in January 2014, saying that factionalism is a big problem within the CPC and that there should be zero tolerance of intra-Party cliques that pursue their own interests.

As high-ranking officials fall one after another, together with their circles of power-abusing officials, authorities and Party media outlets have intensified their criticism of factionalism, which has attracted attention to the role fighting factionalism plays in the anti-graft campaign.

Corrupt networks

When some "big tiger" corrupt senior officials have been caught in recent years, networks of other officials connected to them have often been revealed. These officials gathered into "gangs" or "cliques" which have been either open or hidden, tight or loose, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The Xinhua article also identified some cliques including a faction composed of the secretaries of high ranking officials, a clique of officials in the oil industry and a faction of officials based in coal-rich Shanxi Province.

Former head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee Ling Jihua, who was put under CCDI investigation in late December, became part of the Shanxi clique after working in the province, Xinhua noted.

Since the anti-graft campaign started in 2012, China has conducted regular inspections of 31 provincial-level regions as well as of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, exposing discipline violations and corruption, including severe corruption in Shanxi.

Shanxi is one of the major coal producing regions in China. In 2014, seven of the province's top leaders were probed, including Ling Jihua's brother Ling Zhengce, former vice chairman of the Shanxi Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Ling Jihua secretly held regular gatherings with a group of Shanxi officials and businessmen from 2007 onwards, according to the Beijing-based China Economic Weekly on December 30. Some members of the clique have already been sentenced or probed for corruption, such as Liu Tienan, former deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission and Du Shanxue, former vice governor of Shanxi, the magazine reported.

Liu was sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery in December and Du has been probed since June 2014. Du gave a car to one of Ling's relatives in order to develop a close connection with Ling and later became the vice governor of the province, news magazine Caixin Century reported.

Party committees should be held accountable for the widespread corruption in Shanxi, Huang Shuxian, deputy Party secretary of the CCDI, told a media briefing on Wednesday.

"To underline the importance of the crackdown on factionalism demonstrates the central authorities' determination in its anti-graft campaign," Gao Bo, deputy secretary-general of the China Anti-corruption Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

To crack down on corruption networks is difficult as officials may form alliances to cover up evidence of corruption, Gao said.

A commentary in the People's Daily claimed that the culture of cliques has made intra-Party life "abnormal." It said that "this phenomena threaten the country and its people."

Corrupt officials set up networks to transfer power between each other, which changes public power into private power, the commentary added. It said that many ancient Chinese dynasties crumbled because of factionalism.

Gao said that factionalism or the so-called culture of cliques has already been a huge problem in governance.

"Factionalism halted the rule of the law and caused disunity within the Party. Moreover, if it becomes a long standing problem, the relationship between the Party and the general public would deteriorate," Gao said.

Xu Yaotong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times that the factionalism is a type of political corruption.

"Such corruption may be more serious than economic corruption. Factionalism leads to the rule of man and could make regulations and law dead letters," Xu said, adding that anti-factionalism would be a key focus of anti-graft campaign in the future.

Improving the system for selecting officials is a crucial way to fight against factionalism, Xu said.

"Officials' performance should be a key point evaluated in promotion. However, a number of officials were promoted because they have worked for some senior officials," Xu added.

Systemic corruption

China has adopted rules to discourage the culture of cliques, such as requiring officials to move between different administrative regions.

More than 6 percent of the heads of province-level disciplinary watchdogs have been moved between different regions during their career. Many local disciplinary officials have been moved to avoid them colluding with officials to conceal corruption, according to a report from Shanghai-based news portal thepaper.cn in August.

"This factionalism and systemic corruption is mainly a result of the centralization of power," Gao said.

There are rules or regulations about the selection of officials, Gao said. "But when officials form their 'communities of interest,' it makes it difficult to enforce the rules."

The further streamlining of the administrative approval process and delegating power to lower levels, as well as ensuring government transparency, are key measures that must be taken, Gao added.

According to a statement issued on December 29, the CPC will improve the country's socialist consultative democracy system to better collect the people's opinions and unite the people's efforts to ensure scientific and democratic decision-making.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Liang Jun)

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