Corruption & the party congress

Corruption & the party congress
The upcoming Chinese National Party Congress will convene on October 18th 2017 and speculation is rife on the future of anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan. The history..

The upcoming Chinese National Party Congress will convene on October 18th 2017 and speculation is rife on the future of anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan.

Background

The history of China can be traced back to 1500 BC under the Shang dynasty. Much of China’s culture was developed during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC). The Qing dynasty which ruled from 1644 to 1911/12, was overthrown due to a military uprising. The provisional government of the Republic of China was formed in Nanjing on 12 March 1912.

Presently, China is the second largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. It is both the largest economy in the world and the largest exporter of goods. The region is the world’s largest consumer market and it is the second largest importer in the world. Between 2013 and 2015, China was the top trading nation in the world. Currently, it is second only to the US. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), China's trade in goods for 2016 came up to $3.68 trillion.

The 1st National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in Shanghai and Jiaxing between July 23 and August 2, 1921. This meeting is one of the most important political congregations in the nation. It happens once every five years and leaders of the Communist Party of China come together to discuss the future of the nation. Decisions taken during this meeting will indicate to the world on what is likely to be China’s economic policy in the coming years. 

Apart from the discussions on policies, the congress will also serve another important purpose – future leaders will be decided. Since 2002, members who are part of the Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee have retired if they were aged 68 or older at the time of a party congress. Thus, during this period, the party elects those who will take their place in the Politburo Standing Committee.

Wang Qishan is a reclusive figure in Chinese politics. However, despite the fact that he held a low public profile, he is generally considered the second most powerful man in the country. He is the Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The CCDI is the highest internal-control institution of the Communist Party of China (CPC). It was formed in 1978 and is in-charge of anti-corruption policies within the party. Given that most officials in the government are CPC members, it is the top anti-corruption watchdog in the country.

The Chinese President Xi Jinping has made tackling corruption one of his main governing agendas. In 2016, the government announced that in the span of three years, one million officials had been punished for corrupt practices. Those caught in the past range from low ranking officials to top brass. As the head of this powerful body, Qishan wields a considerable amount of power within the party.

Analysis

On October 18, China will hold its 19th National Party Congress.

This puts the future of the anti-graft tsar Qishan in question. The politician is currently 69 years old and thus if he were to follow convention rules, he will be retiring on October 18th. He also concurrently serves as a member of the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee. He’s held this position since 2012. The Politburo Standing Committee is China’s highest decision-making body.

However, according to reports, it is likely that Qishan may be able to retain his position. One of the reasons why insiders believe he will retain his job is due to a secret meeting he recently held. He met with Steve Bannon who served as the White House Chief Strategist. Despite stepping down from the White House, Bannon reportedly still exerts considerable influence on US President Donald Trump. The meeting further indicates Beijing’s growing interest in US economic nationalism. Thus, there is talk that Chinese President Xi Jinping might tap Qishan for a second five-year term.

Professor Andrew Nathan, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York, spoke to SCMP noting, “Xi seems to have enough power to change the rules of the game if he wishes to do so. As far as I can see, Xi continues to trust and rely on Wang to carry out the anti-corruption campaign, and that makes Wang an important part of Xi’s power base. I think Xi will want him to continue.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that Qishan’s future is also tied to Jinping’s own political aspirations. If Jinping makes an exception for his ally, Qishan, then he himself would find it easy to seek a third term as party chief in 2022, when he turns 69. Not only will the international community get a glimpse of China’s economic aspirations for the future but will also be able to gauge the future of the nation’s top leader this month. 

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