China's Ruling Party Extends Anti-Graft Campaign to Beijing, Shanghai

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china-shanghai-11112015.jpg Paramilitary policemen stand in front of the skyline of Pudong in smog in Shanghai on the first anniversary of China's first free-trade zone, Sept. 29, 2014.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has named two more high-ranking officials to fall in President Xi Jinping's ever-widening anti-corruption campaign: one in Beijing and another in Shanghai, official media reported.

Shanghai vice mayor Ai Baojun is being investigated for suspected "severe disciplinary violations," the party's anti-graft division, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said.

Ai was also director of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, as well as holding the city's portfolio for development, planning, ports, airports, energy and social stability, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported.

Also being probed by the CCDI for the same reason is Beijing deputy party chief Lu Xiwen, the paper said.

A source in the Beijing government surnamed Ge said rumors of Lu's imminent downfall had begun to circulate in political circles on Tuesday.

"But we all thought she was still looking pretty jaunty in the news, but then she stopped responding to calls and messages; we heard nothing from her," Ge said.

"Nobody had really paid her that much attention before."

Ai, 55, is the first official in Shanghai, which is home to a powerful political faction within the party headed by former president Jiang Zemin, to be investigated in Xi's campaign vowing to take on both high-ranking "tigers" and low-ranking "flies."

The China Daily quoted Shanghai municipal party secretary Han Zheng as saying that Ai's investigation is "very distressing," and that all officials should take it as a warning.

"We should be strict with ourselves, work as role models and set higher standards to restrain ourselves, our relatives and colleagues," Han told a recent high-level political meeting in the city.

"We should fully understand that the ... anti-corruption struggle remains quite serious," he said.

Power struggles ahead?

Veteran Hebei-based journalist Zhu Xinxin said Xi's campaign is unlikely to eradicate corruption from within party ranks, however.

"If they don't fight corruption through reform of the whole system, then it'll just become a vicious circle, and they will just use the anti-corruption campaign as an excuse to wage power struggles," Zhu told RFA.

"Once [Xi's] power has been consolidated, this will just make way for more corruption, because this is absolute power, in the absence of any checks, balances or oversight to stop these problems from happening," he said.

Nanjing-based dissident Sun Lin said the investigation of Ai suggests Xi is now ready to take on the powerful support base of Jiang Zemin.

"Xi has already bagged quite a few tigers, but there are still a lot left at the core ... perhaps he's waiting for the problem to be solved by [Jiang's] death," Sun said.

"Xi Jinping's power ... has no formal footing within the military, police or armed police systems," he said, adding that the party is convulsing under a major factional power struggle similar in magnitude to the 1981 fall of the Gang of Four headed by Mao's wife Jiang Qing and the rise of late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping from 1979.

"The power struggle within the Chinese government is very serious right now; just as bad as when Deng Xiaoping went after Jiang Qing," Sun said.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ka Pa and Wei Ling for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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