AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
In the three months since Chinese President Xi Jinping was confirmed to an unprecedented third term earlier this year, he has doubled down on his so-called “anti-corruption” campaign that has seen millions of party officials and business leaders investigated and arrested. But as top executives fear persecution for perceived disloyalty, China’s economy is floundering.
For the ten years Xi has led the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), his purge of the party and business class under the guise of fighting corruption has never stopped. As former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Deputy CIA Director during the last decade of the Cold War Robert Gates said, the CCP will “do anything to stabilize and expand its regime,” referring to Xi’s willingness to sacrifice economic growth for national security.
Xi confirmed as much in his report to the CCP during the party congress last October, mentioning “security” 91 times – far more than the 60 times he mentioned “economy.” In communist regimes, “security” is a euphemism for eliminating threats to the power of the state.
In the same speech, Xi praised his anti-corruption campaign and urged an even stricter approach to “purify the red gene.” The “red gene” refers to Xi’s demand that every Chinese citizen study the CCP’s guiding philosophy, especially “Xi Jinping Thought,” a 2017 addendum to the country’s constitution which re-affirms the control of the government over every aspect of people’s lives.
One retired party law teacher, who moved to Taiwan before the pandemic and wished to be identified only as Lu, told this author that Xi believes, even more than Mao, that every party member must go to bed and wake up hearing the name of the First Secretary.
“During the day,” Lu added, “he must feel the Secretary’s breathing on his back in every situation. Xi wants people to never forget he is their ruler.”
Xi accomplishes this goal through a never-ending onslaught of investigations and regular arrests against officials dubbed “tigers” (any government officials critical of Xi) and “flies” (the supporters of those officials, including many in the business community).
According to data released by the Commission for Discipline, Inspection, and Supervision, Xi has ordered investigations into some 22 million officials since his rise to power. Of those, nearly 9 million have been imprisoned, 12 percent of them for life.
Since January alone, the CCP’s secret police has referred 4.6 million officials for investigation, including 49 members of the central committee. About 8 in 10 of those accused were sentenced to at least 10 years of imprisonment.
Ren Chenbin, a Chinese scholar, said that in recent months the “disciplinary investigations” have dropped even the veneer of being about corruption, and are instead openly about examining personal loyalty to Xi Jinping. The goal is to ensure life-long tenure for Xi by escalating these political persecutions.
In order to carry out this growing mountain of investigations and arrests, the CCP recently opened a “School of Discipline Inspection and Supervision” at Jiangsu University, to be followed by several other similar institutions. The school says students will graduate as specialists in the CCP’s criminal code, psychology, and conflict resolution. The CCP’s Ministry of Education, meanwhile, has said that expanding “the reserve army of discipline and inspection and supervision personnel” is its “most urgent goal.”
But it’s not just CCP officials who have become the targets of Xi’s purges. In fact, reports on Chinese social media suggest that almost 7 in 10 people accused of corruption are members of the business community in China, most of them with relationships in Western countries. Sometimes even an account in a foreign bank is enough to invite an investigation.
Lu said that this excessive prosecution was aimed at subordinating all businesses to the CCP by forcing all firms to establish supervising committees governed by Beijing. From small shops to big enterprises, Xi wants to purge all who may be potentially threatening to him, Lu added. “The longer he stays in power, he feels increasingly insecure and in a rush to fulfill his life mission.”
Another former head of a leading financial firm in Hong Kong who wanted to remain anonymous said that out of his twenty friends on the mainland, only four are still out of jail. However, two of them must report every day to the police since they are under investigation. All became “suspects” in the last two months.
Nobody thinks of any investment because everyone fears being arrested, said Yu Zhifeng, a Hong Kong senior manager who also noted that nearly every day police in the mainland raid private investors’ residences. “Everybody is silent, fearing intimidation, but it is hell.” Yu described an arrest of a senior accountant at a renowned Western chemical firm the night before this author spoke to him.
Unsurprisingly, this fear has resulted in a paralysis of sorts for the Chinese economy. Late last month, the Chinese renminbi dropped to its lowest level against the U.S. Dollar since December, with weak consumer spending and lower-than-expected industrial production. The Chinese stock market is now in bear territory.
Even Xi’s pet projects are suffering. The Xio’ang “New Area,” an ambitious business development initiative launched in 2017 under Xi’s guidance, has seen virtually zero progress. What was by now supposed to be a dazzling hi-tech hub is mostly empty office buildings populated by more birds than people. Xi has continued to urge companies to move to this “project of millennial significance,” but as of now there are few signs that any corporations are eager to take up the offer.
After many predictions of China’s inevitable economic ascendence in recent years, it now looks as if Xi’s ruthless cult of personality and growing paranoia may be hurtling the country toward an epic collapse.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.
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