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China corruption punishments jump 44% in January

Chinese Leader Xi Jinping

This material belongs to: Financial Times.

Cadres disciplined by a high-profile arm of Xi Jinping’s anti-graft drive surged in January ahead of the announcement that Beijing is poised to scrap the two-term limit for China’s president and vice-president.

The party disciplined 4,327 cadres last month, up 45 per cent year on year after rising 48 per cent in December to a monthly record of 7,329, according to the Chinese Communist party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

While down from the previous month, the elevated January reading from the austerity drive – launched in 2012 and which serves as a partial reading on the scope and intensity of the ongoing anti-corruption crackdown – nonetheless suggests that the party’s discipline arm isn’t easing off the throttle as it did in early 2017.

But the data on cadres disciplined comes with limitations: the austerity campaign is only one part of the broader crackdown and, in his annual work report delivered in early 2017, the then-head of the CCDI Wang Qishan acknowledged that three-quarters of those sanctioned received only “light discipline”. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of those disciplined remain party members, meaning they are not prosecuted in court.

Instead of signalling serious efforts to punish corruption, spikes in discipline may rather represent increased efforts to force officials at all levels of the party to fall in line with orders from the leadership in Beijing. With the latest potential shake-up to China’s leadership system, that may have been all the more important in early 2018.