China’s fight against corruption in the new era has experienced notable changes, with the focus shifting from winning time for resolving the chronic graft problem to making substantial institutional breakthroughs on the issue. This is reflected in the leadership’s decision to establish a national supervisory commission to oversee all officials exercising public power in accordance with the law, and the adoption of a series of amendments to the Constitution.
The ongoing anti-corruption campaign is mainly targeted at vested interest groups and the political corruption they are involved in, which Wang Qishan, former chief of the top anti-corruption watchdog, said was the worst form of corruption.
Political corruption is, in general, manifested in two aspects: The formation of interest groups with the intention of usurping Party and State power, and clique-based sectarian activities aimed at damaging the Party’s centralized unity.
This is an important conclusion made by the Communist Party of China (CPC) based on its past anti-corruption campaigns. It also shows that to completely eradicate corruption, China must resolutely prevent the formation of intra-Party interest groups, uproot the corrupt forces embedded in the political and economic systems, prevent intra-Party interest groups from seizing political power to change the Party’s nature, and build a strict and serious intra-Party political life.
Aside from violating State law and Party disciplines, there is another form of corruption which, according to some legal experts, takes advantage of the problems existing in the country’s political system in the process of its socialist construction or the Party’s discipline loopholes to form political alliances, so as to exercise absolute say in personnel appointment. Without eradicating such “legalized” forms of corruption and achieving institutional breakthroughs, no anti-corruption campaign can fully succeed.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October sent an unequivocal signal that the country will change the soil breeding corruption, in order to eliminate corruption in the Party from the root.
In terms of separation of “administrative, legislative and judicial powers”, the Chinese mainland’s anti-corruption system is different from that of Western countries, as well as Taiwan’s supervisory system.
The mainland’s national supervision commission is a political organ, but not an administrative or judicial body. The supervision commissions at different levels are under the leadership of the Party and subject to the supervision of same-level people’s congresses and their standing committees.
In designing the anti-corruption system, the Chinese mainland must learn from the mature anti-corruption practices of other countries and regions, including the Independent Commission Against Corruption of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It should also explore the internal motivation and political resources within its political system to form a unique anti-corruption mechanism with Chinese characteristics.
China’s fight against corruption must be under the leadership of the Party and adhere to the principle that the Party enjoys absolute say and decision-making powers on the issue. The CPC’s anti-corruption drive is a kind of fight against “self-corruption”, which is different from combating corruption among political parties.
Therefore, the Party must have a high level of self-discipline, exclude selective law enforcement, bring itself under people’s supervision and prevent the anti-corruption campaign from becoming an intra-Party political struggle, which is a type of formalism.
The anti-corruption campaign is an effort to maintain the Party’s political nature, address deep-seated problems through self-correction, and ensure the Party leads the Chinese people to realize modernization.
The CPC has come to realize that the anti-corruption drive is not a self-entertaining campaign, but a process of continuously pursuing and building consensuses.
So China must thoroughly reform its national power structure, and all the staff in the public sector should be put under the supervision of the anti-corruption agencies to make sure the drive is successful.
In the past, the anti-corruption campaign was mainly targeted at the Party rank and file. Now, with the establishment of the national supervisory commission, the campaign will cover both Party members and non-Party members in all public sector organizations.
According to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, all officials who exercise public power will be brought under the scrutiny of the country’s supervision agencies.
And the commission and its local branches are bound to take some bold and innovative actions in supervising public servants to better fulfill their responsibilities.
The author is a professor of law at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.