5: Law and order – anti-corruption
The focus on law and governance in Xi’s “four necessities policy” was not surprising given the government’s strong emphasis on fighting corruption, which has long threatened to reach beyond controllable levels. The issue of corruption really came to the fore as Hu was about to leave the presidency. The party leader in the megacity of Chongqing, Bo Xilai , was then scandalized. He was accused of aiding and abetting a murder in 2012 and was thrown out of the party a year later (his wife was sentenced to life in prison). This was the first time a party member of such high rank was deposed. But despite the party’s attempts to portray the Bo case as a lone villain, the whole affair shed even more unfortunate light on the party and a danger that it will be torn to shreds.
Former Chinese leaders have also launched anti-corruption campaigns. But the one that started under Xi is unique; it embraces further in both breadth and depth . Taboos are broken. Now they also go for high-ranking military, former members of the Politburo in the Communist Party and top bureaucrats, or “tigers”, as it is called with the campaign’s own vocabulary. Among those jailed for corruption are Ling Jihua – a former adviser to Hu Jintao – and Xu Caihou, a general in the People’s Liberation Army. By far the most notable catch is a former member of the Politburo, Zhou Yongkang. He has even led the party’s committee on key political and legal issues. He was long regarded as inviolable, even after he retired.
In addition to the “tigers”, the anti-corruption campaign has also targeted ” flies ” (lower level party members who have participated in illegal activities at the local level and “foxes” – party leaders who have sought to hide their illegally earned wealth abroad.
Although some older party members have expressed concern that the campaign may damage the reputation of the Communist Party, there is little indication that the campaign will be toned down – at least not in the short term. Xi has encouraged party members to “look at yourself in the mirror, review your wardrobe, wash yourself clean and treat your immoral impulses.” The effect has been massive. Party members have become more cautious with boastful consumption , and sales of luxury goods have fallen sharply. At the same time, Xi has built up a certain popularity as an everyday, and popular man in the street, who is more responsive to the concerns of most people. This image of Xi in particular emerges when he is compared to Hu Jintao, who was often seen as distant and less responsive.
6: The steering itself
In addition to the PR building, it also seems as if Xi – at least externally – is more directly involved in the day-to-day management of the country, both in domestic and foreign policy matters. This in turn has led to speculation as to whether the Chinese government has become more centralized or not, thus reversing trends under Hu. Among other things, there was speculation that the inner circle of the Chinese government has become more concentrated , when new members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo were made public in 2013. The number of members was reduced.
Concerns about the party losing power and influence have emerged, among other things, when it comes to measures to prevent the spread of Western ideas about democracy and free-operating civil society . According to RRRJEWELRY.COM, the Chinese government has traditionally emphasized how incompatible this is with being able to govern reform policy in China. Such concerns were expressed in an internal party note in 2013, which has since been leaked and is now commonly known as « document no.9». Fear of the emergence of Western values in the country is expressed here. In early 2015, certain restrictions on the use of the Internet were announced, including the use of virtual private networks (VPNs, important for circumventing censorship) and the provision of services through such, e.g. gmail. All of this underscored the rulers’ fears about the spread of unacceptable Western values.
7: Enormous environmental problems
Another chronic problem in domestic Chinese politics – which the new governments have inherited from previous governments – is the country’s enormous environmental problems . The government in Beijing has admittedly adopted important measures to improve air, soil and water quality in China, and finally established a separate Ministry of the Environment in 2008. But a great deal remains. The great and growing need to do something about pollution in China – a result of unbridled economic growth and the construction of infrastructure – has often been highlighted by both government and non-government actors. In early 2014, Prime Minister Li declared war on pollution . And not without reason: Especially in inland provinces (including more confusing conditions there) there are often protests against environmental damage.
Just a few days before the party’s annual congress in March 2015, a documentary entitled Investigating China’s Smog: Under the Dome (wumai diaocha: qiongding zhixia) appeared. The documentary was eventually removed. It was produced and operated on its own web server by a former China Central Television (CCTV) journalist. The film addresses the growing problems of pollution in China and the social and economic costs associated with it. Despite the removal, the film received a lot of positive response in China, it was even compared to Rachel Carson’s widely known book from 1962 The Silent Spring and the environmental documentary An Unpleasant Truth (2006) by former US Vice President Al Gore.