China's president, Xi Jinping, is an enigma.
On the one hand he presents as a modern leader who many hope will guide his nation away from the social and political strictures of a command economy toward a more open society.
On the other hand, he appears to be buttressing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against any change which might threaten its power and control.
What is going on here?
Yes, President Xi is making an effort to tackle corruption. And not before time. This cancer is eating away at the authority of the CCP as it siphons off communal wealth into the hands of a greedy cadre. The question is: how serious is he about rooting out this evil?
The people know that a corrupt oligarchy runs the country, and they are fed up with its self-serving behaviour. In fact, if they had to choose between either democracy or a corruption-free government, they would probably choose the latter.
But an anti-corruption drive is nothing new. It's just another name for an old fashioned political purge.
For example, this is how previous president Hu Jintau got rid of his factional enemy from Shanghai, Party Secretary Chen Liangyu. Hu's predecessor Zhang Zemin did the same thing with a troublesome mayor of Beijing, Chen Xitong.
And recently in Chongqing, newly appointed Party Secretary Bo Xilai instigated a corruption clean-up which netted the police chief Wen Qiang and a dozen or so local mafia bosses (all executed). Government heads rolled, corrupt businessmen were jailed and their assets confiscated. In one fell swoop, Bo removed his enemies, pocketed their wealth, and created his own power-base (which collapsed later after he over-reached himself).
And now it's Xi Jinping's turn. His popular anti-corruption drive is removing his factional enemies (e.g., Zhou Yongkang) and usurping their power-bases (e.g., the petro-chemical industry and the Peoples Liberation Army).
There is nothing new about this type of behaviour. In China, this is how new leaders consolidate their position.
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