Bo Xilai and the politics of corruption investigations

The downfall of Bo Xilai, the former Mayor of Chongqing (a large city in southwest China), in the past month or so has been fascinating to follow.  This article in the FT by Kathrin Hille provides interesting background on some of the key players and factions: Show of might over Bo’s military allies.  The final paragraphs highlights the role that corruption investigations play in Chinese politics and the leadership transtion:

Sources close to the military say the party bureaucracy has tightened its organisational and propaganda grip on the armed forces since Mr Bo’s replacement as Chongqing leader.

Last week, the Central Military Commission set up an audit steering group which is to examine procurement, construction projects and real estate income in the armed forces, a move seen as a warning to military officers that any disloyalty could be punished with a corruption investigation.

The new committee is also seen as a step by the party leadership to usurp an initiative by a key ally of Mr Bo’s in the armed forces. General Liu Yuan had first spearheaded an unusually high-profile anti-corruption campaign earlier this year.

In January, Gen Liu issued a blunt warning about a “dangerous level” of corruption in the military and pledged to fight it even if it would result in his own downfall.

Shortly after, Lieutenant General Gu Junshan was removed from his post as deputy head of the General Logistics Department in a corruption investigation.

The GLD has long been notorious for corruption in the armed forces because it controls many prized assets and offers more opportunities than elsewhere for officers to make money through kickbacks.

The Communist party has often used corruption investigations to purge officials who had lost support for other reasons. A retired officer who teaches at a military academy says the new audit steering group has the purpose of taking this tool out of General Liu’s hands. “It doesn’t mean he is in trouble. But it reminds us that it is party central who will determine who gets in trouble.”

Update:  This article from The Guardian’s Tania Branigan is also interesting, including quotes from corruption scholars in China and the US: Bo Xilai case shines light on corruption in China.

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