Elite Politics, Party Affairs & Ideology

Xi’s Anti-Corruption Campaign: An All-Purpose Governing Tool

Christopher Carothers

Monday, March 1, 2021

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature anti-corruption campaign has attracted attention because of its high-profile investigations and arrests, but it has also advanced government policies in areas beyond corruption control. This article discusses the campaign’s recent developments and how the party leadership has used it as an all-purpose tool for governing during Xi’s second term. Since the 19th Party Congress in 2017, the campaign has become more institutionalized and has brought down even more high-ranking officials. At the same time, the Xi administration has used anti-corruption work to support a wide range of recent policies and directives, such as the party’s anti-poverty and anti-crime initiatives. The administration’s sweeping inspections of party and state institutions have been integral to the anti-corruption campaign, but they have also aimed to improve general policy implementation, support organizational reforms, and ensure loyalty to Xi and the Chinese Communist Party. Governing through the campaign in this way has helped advance Xi’s political vision, in which a strong and disciplined party leads the country and penetrates every area of China’s state and society.

Continuous Purges: Xi’s Control of the Public Security Apparatus and the Changing Dynamics of CCP Elite Politics

Guoguang Wu

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

This essay identifies three waves of purges in the Ministry of Public Security under the Xi Jinping leadership, and then focuses on the third wave, which, corresponding to similar measures beyond the public security system, featured the cleansing of those who rose to prominence due to their support of Xi’s earlier anti-corruption campaign. Such a development whereby Xi turns his sword against his previous political allies indicates that continuous purges are becoming a new political dynamic in CCP elite politics. The essay finds that Xi’s prolonged tenure in power and the governance challenges he confronts are the two leading factors that have helped to shape China’s current proto-Maoist power struggles and elite politics. According to this line of reasoning, Xi’s ongoing efforts to control the public security apparatus indicates that CCP elite politics is becoming increasingly dominated by internal repression and coercive means.

Investigation of a Death Long Feared: How China Decided to Impose its National Security Law in Hong Kong

Minxin Pei

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

China’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong has effectively ended the “one country, two systems” governance model in the former British colony.  Available evidence suggests that this was one of the options for Beijing in order to quell the unrest in the city.  Chinese leaders were reluctant to resort to this drastic measure until last year when protests against a controversial extradition law resulted in mass demonstrations and escalating violent confrontations between protesters and police. Our open-source research suggests that because the events in Hong Kong were deemed by Chinese leaders as touching the “bottom line” set by Xi Jinping in his speech commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese rule on July 1, 2017, they decided to use this option. The decision to impose a national security law was likely made between late July and the end of August 2019 with little involvement of the SAR’s leadership.

The Saohei Campaign, Protection Umbrellas, and China’s Changing Political-Legal Apparatus

Sheena Chestnut Greitens

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

In January 2018 China began a three-year campaign, known as the saohei campaign, to crack down on “underworld forces.” A key emphasis of the campaign was its targeting of “protection umbrellas,” an effort to break the links between criminal organizations and their government and party protectors at the local levels. In the rhetoric of the campaign, “black and evil” underworld forces not only threatened the safety and finances of ordinary citizens but also infiltrated and weakened political authority, thereby damaging both social stability and the party’s ruling foundation. Saohei, therefore, is not only a cleansing of corruption at the grassroots levels but also a purification and re-strengthening of governance under party supervision. The campaign has resulted in the removal of a large number of personnel throughout the political-legal system, moving from initial removal of key leaders to lower levels of the system as the campaign has continued to unfold. It has also allowed local authorities to use the idea of “black and evil” to target specific local groups, from housing-demolition protestors to alleged “underworld forces linked to the Dalai Lama clique.” The saohei campaign will end early next year, but many of its key themes and foci will continue in the 2021 “education and rectification campaign” announced by Chen Yixin for the entire political-legal apparatus, suggesting that the party leadership perceives unfinished work within the political-legal apparatus.  Xi Jinping, having already successfully replaced most of the leadership in the political-legal apparatus, now appears to be using saohei and its successor rectification campaign to push his authority down to lower levels of the political-legal system.

CLM Insights Interview with Xueguang Zhou on his recent book: 

The Institutional Logic of Governance in China: An Organizational Approach

CLM Insights Interview with Richard McGregor on his recent paper: 

Xi Jinping: The Backlash 

(Lowy Institute, 2020)

From the CCP Dilemma to the Xi Jinping Dilemma: The Chinese Regime’s Capacity for Governance

Guoguang Wu

Sunday, March 1, 2020

This essay analyzes how the Fourth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), held in October 2019, furthered the concentration of power in the hands of party chief Xi Jinping, a concentration of power epitomized by the personification of party leadership over the party-state system. This took place against the background of a strengthening of the regime’s capacity for governance, but the consequence has been an upgrading of the CCP’s governance dilemma, which features unbalanced strength to promote economic growth and political stability on the one hand and to deal with the social, environmental, and public costs of development on the other hand, and Xi Jinping’s governance dilemma, which involves overall control by the supreme leader as a result of the impotence of the regime and accordingly the institutional decay in present-day China. The COVID-19 crisis is the latest example of the overlapping of these two dilemmas.     

Ideological Indoctrination Under Xi Jinping

Minxin Pei

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The CCP under Xi Jinping’s leadership has launched the most sustained and comprehensive program of ideological indoctrination in the post-Mao era. By issuing new rules and revising old ones on ideological education in the party, propaganda work, education, and patriotic education, the party apparently seeks to use ideological indoctrination to strengthen Xi’s personal authority, demand strict political loyalty from its officials and members, tighten control in the mass media and on college campuses, and mobilize nationalistic support from the public. Although the program is being implemented through administrative measures, its reliance on coercion and material incentives belie the challenge facing the party to carry out ideological indoctrination in a highly materialistic society. This program reflects the regime’s insecurity about the erosion of its members’ ideological commitment and political loyalty. The backward- looking nature of the party’s program of ideological indoctrination is symptomatic of its poverty of ideas, even as the party struggles to project a forward-looking vision. The outcome of this program is likely to be political ritualization and feigned loyalty that are more common in a regime in decay than in a regime undergoing reinvigoration.

CLM Insights Interview with Jude Blanchette on his latest book: 

China's New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong 

(Oxford University Press, 2019)

Bureaucratic strategies of coping with strongman rule: How local officials survive in President Xi Jinping’s new order

Minxin Pei

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been attempting to transform the Chinese Communist Party into an ideologically committed, organizationally disciplined, and politically loyal regime.  His efforts include enforcing strict discipline and curtailing the perks of officials.  This attempt appears to be unpopular among the party’s rank and file and has encountered various forms of resistance.  Resourceful local officials have attempted to protect their interests and resist the leadership’s efforts to strip them of the perks and benefits that until now they have taken for granted.  Their passive resistance appears to be a serious obstacle to the realization of Xi’s ambitious vision.  Ironically, many of Xi’s own policies, such as emphasizing ideological indoctrination and suppressing civil society, have made it more difficult to combat the subterfuge by local officials.  The party’s top-down approach is unlikely to succeed in converting ideologically cynical CCP officials into true believers, while local officials have no feasible means of forcing the top leadership to change course.  This political stalemate is likely to continue.

Rewriting the Rules of the Chinese Party-State: Xi’s Progress in Reinvigorating the CCP

Minxin Pei

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Since assuming power in late 2012 and especially since the conclusion of the Nineteenth Party Congress in October 2017, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made significant progress in implementing a systematic program to rewrite the rules of the Chinese Communist Party.  These changes are designed to augment Xi’s personal authority, centralize decision-making power, tighten the party’s organizational discipline and procedures, extend CCP control over state and society, and intensify ideological indoctrination.  Even though Xi has achieved indisputable success in revising and promulgating nearly all important CCP rules, it remains unclear whether such changes in the rules have been fully accepted as legitimate and binding by the CCP’s rank-and-file.  Nor should we take at face value as a settled reality the assertion of Xi’s supremacy in practically every revised or newly issued CCP rule book.  

The King’s Men and Others: Emerging Political Elites under Xi Jinping

Guoguang Wu

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Large-scale elite upward mobility has been taking place in Xi Jinping’s China. Who has attained critical positions under Xi’s leadership? How did they achieve such career advancements? Focusing on those elites who have emerged in recent years at or above the deputy provincial and vice-ministerial levels in the power hierarchy of the narrowly defined CCP and state administrative apparatuses, this article outlines seven groups that established close connections with Xi Jinping during the various stages of his life before rising to national power; it then analyzes how sub-mainstream and non-mainstream paths of elite advancements have also worked in a marginal sense due to the so-called “cascade impact” and the “bandwagon effect.”

A Tale of Three Speeches: How Xi’s Speech Marking the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Differs from those of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao

Minxin Pei

Friday, March 1, 2019

Xi Jinping’s speech marking the 40th anniversary of reform and opening on December 18, 2018 recapitulates the substantial ideological and policy changes he has initiated since coming to power in late 2012.  A comparison of this speech with speeches by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao on the 20th and 30th anniversary of reform and opening respectively reveals significant differences in terms of ideological rhetoric and substantive policy issues.  Whereas the speeches by Jiang and Hu adhere to the basic ideological and policy guidelines established by Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping’s speech underscores his personal authority and political vision.  Most significantly, Xi’s speech emphasizes the supremacy of Communist Party centralized and unified strongman rule and China’s bold and expansive role in international affairs.  The uncompromising tone of his speech suggests that it is unlikely that Xi will make substantial changes to his domestic and foreign policies despite the strong headwinds both domestically and internationally.

CLM Insights: Interview with Elizabeth Economy,

C. V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Xi Jinping’s Dilemma: Back Down or Double Down?

Minxin Pei

Saturday, December 1, 2018

This year Chinese leader Xi Jinping encountered the most difficult test of his leadership since assuming office in late 2012. The U.S.-China trade war (and the escalating strategic competition between the two countries in particular) have exposed China’s structural vulnerabilities and raised questions about Xi’s responsibility for the rapid deterioration in Beijing’s ties with Washington. As economic woes mounted, elite discontent with Xi’s leadership appeared to be widespread, precipitating an effort by Xi and his loyalists during the summer to bolster his authority. But whatever incipient opposition to Xi existed, it appeared to be short-lived. Xi emerged from the critical summer retreat at Beidaihe in mid- August with no obvious diminution of his authority. Since then, he has intensified efforts to strengthen his power but there are no indications that he has made fundamental adjustments to his domestic and foreign policies.

A Setback or Boost for Xi Jinping’s Concentration of Power? Domination versus Resistance within the CCP Elite

Guoguang Wu

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Xi Jinping’s concentration of power, which had already achieved remarkable success, was further endorsed and institutionalized during the October 2017 Nineteenth Party Congress and the March 2018 session of the National People’s Congress. In recent Chinese political developments, is it possible to detect elite resistance to Xi’s fast-growing power and authority? How are party-state cadres able to display such resistance? Furthermore, how does such resistance affect Xi’s power and governance? This article attempts to answer these questions by, first, looking at how Xi has promoted his concentration of power in the aftermath of the Nineteenth Party Congress; second, discussing four aspects of such elite resistance, and; third, analyzing how Xi has reacted under the new sociopolitical circumstances to elite resistance. It is argued that elite resistance does exist and recently it has been furthered by social and international factors. However, Xi has taken additional steps to strengthen his personal dictatorship over party-state elites. Such a struggle between the dictator and the bureaucrats will continue to shape the dynamics of China’s politics and policy.