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Chinese anti-corruption "boom"

On how the current anti-corruption campaign in China is related to the change in the development model, political scientist Vasily Kashin

The anti-corruption campaign in China has been going on for more than three years - it was formally launched after the 2012th CCP Congress in November XNUMX, although the first signs appeared earlier. Campaigns of this kind have followed previous Chinese power transfers from one generation of leaders to the next. But the current one is unprecedented in three dimensions: duration, breadth, and, to a lesser extent, scale.

Chinese anti-corruption
For example, for the first time during the reform period, a former member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPC, the former head of the Chancellery of the Central Committee of the CPC and former deputy chairmen of the Central Military Commission were repressed. The most common explanations are “putting things in order” with the aim of introducing monstrous corruption into the minimum acceptable framework and “exacerbating internal strife”. The exacerbation of the internal struggle is understood as an attempt by the ruling faction, the entourage of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, to defeat their opponents using anti-corruption rhetoric.

Over time, it becomes apparent that both explanations don't work. Xi Jinping is already the strongest Chinese leader since Mao Zedong in terms of concentration of power. The behavior of the Chinese bureaucracy in terms of corruption has already changed as much as it can be changed through punishment and intimidation. The campaign, however, is not weakening, but rather mutating and expanding.

It can be assumed that we are not dealing with a banal power struggle, but with a much deeper process of crisis restructuring of the entire Chinese party and state system. By its nature and tasks being solved, this process is close to the big purges on the model of the USSR 1937 – 1938 and similar purges in China during the era of the cultural revolution. The purpose of the purge is to completely destroy the stable ties that exist in the governing elite and replace them with a new system of ties, as well as, to a large extent, physically replace the old elite with a new one.

The published statistics show that from the XVIII Congress until the end of 2015, the control bodies considered cases of "violation of discipline" in relation to 750 people, cases for 000 people were transferred to the court. Of these, in 25, 600 cases were considered, 2015 people were punished: 336 got off with penalties, demotion, transfer to another job, etc., cases for 000 people were transferred to court. In the overwhelming majority of cases, investigations by party organs lead to punishment along the party line. As a rule, we are not talking about the imprisonment of the punished official (not to mention the execution - the number of executions is classified, but, apparently, negligible), but only about the destruction of his career.

From a technical point of view, the process is organized skillfully and with a clear desire to limit collateral damage. Bodies of party control sift through the bureaucratic apparatus with a small sieve, as a result, hundreds of thousands of people lose their position and prospects, tens of thousands - freedom or life, but millions are scared and forced to accept new rules of the game. The principle of work has remained the same, and it is very old: the ruler, with the support of a part of the security forces, appeals to the people directly and turns the aggression accumulated in society to the nobles.

The current campaign is significantly larger in scale than the previous ones, although it is not necessary to speak of superiority by an order of magnitude. It is important, however, to remember that earlier it was about reprisals against persons on average of a much lower level. Now, more than 100 officials have been punished starting from the level of deputy governor of a province, deputy minister and above. The fall of each of such people has dire consequences for dozens of smaller officials and businessmen, united with him in a complex network of informal ties.

Such a significant violent shake-up of the state apparatus in such a short period of time means, in fact, a change in the rules of the game, the alignment of forces and key personalities, from some point we can talk about rebooting the system. Why does the system need to be rebooted? The process is not connected with Xi Jinping's personal preferences, but with the obvious fact of the dying of the political and economic model of China's development, begun by Deng Xiaoping of the era of "reforms and opening".

The Chinese development model was based on three basic conditions. First, there is an export boom fueled by the constant influx of cheap labor from the countryside. Secondly, this is an infrastructure boom, carried out mainly by the local authorities at the expense of borrowed funds. It was easy to attract them against the backdrop of rapid industrialization and urbanization. Third, it is a passive foreign policy, a favorable external environment and openness to the world. The latter circumstance created favorable conditions not only for attracting capital from abroad, but also for its withdrawal.

These conditions have formed over three decades a stable model of relations between business and government, as well as mechanisms for converting power into capital, the subsequent investment of this capital, its legalization and transfer abroad. The closeness of all three old growth factors to exhaustion was obvious to Chinese economists even during the 2008 crisis, but it was impossible to carry out the necessary reforms: the previous government headed by Hu Jintao was weak and could not overcome the influence of Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin. Adopted in 2008-2009 anti-crisis measures were half-hearted, and partly (government investment in infrastructure) exacerbated the long-standing problems of the Chinese economy.

As a result, the country faces a stagnation or decline in exports in the absence of compensating growth in domestic consumption. The infrastructure boom has long since turned into an infrastructure bubble, leaving local governments with $ 3,4 trillion in debt (at the end of 2014) and a country with a lot of useless, redundant buildings, airports and roads. The debt to GDP ratio in China (including private and corporate debt) exceeded 280% last year. The foreign policy situation is deteriorating, and the "globalization" of the corrupt Chinese officials is turning into a threat to national security.

With the help of a major purge, Chinese leaders are trying to achieve a vital radical change in the direction of state economic policy, which, apparently, will entail major changes in foreign policy and ideology. We are talking about a new China, where numerous problems can no longer be flooded with money and compensated for by double-digit growth. The main issue will not be growth, but justice, social security, equality and ideology - including the country's place in the world.

The material was published in the Vedomosti newspaper on February 18.02.2016, XNUMX.
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