China’s top anti-corruption body vows to zero in on key state-backed projects

William Zheng, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jan 26 2021 02:35 PM

China’s top anti-corruption body vows to zero in on key state-backed projects 1
Soldiers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) are seen before a giant screen as Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019. Jason Lee, Reuters

The Communist Party's top anti-corruption body has vowed to keep a close watch on state-backed technology and infrastructure projects and crack down further on graft at the grass-roots level.

In a communique issued on Sunday after a three-day conference in Beijing, the Central Commission ]]>

The meeting - attended by more than 130 senior members of the CCDI and their provincial counterparts, President Xi Jinping and other top party leaders - is held annually to review the past year and set the agenda for the next 12 months.

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Xi told cadres on Friday that while the CCDI had achieved some success in 2020, corruption remained "the biggest threat to the party's rule". He called on the graft-busters to do their utmost to ensure corruption would not undermine the party's goals.

He said they must not let their guard down in 2021, the start of the country's next five-year plan that marks a new stage in the party's ambition to create a "modernised socialist country" by 2049.

The CCDI's communique echoed that call, saying its first priority would be to ensure the plan for the next five years was implemented with "strong political supervision".

It also said key investment projects in the plan would be under scrutiny, especially those that could put China's stability at risk.

"(We should) focus on investigating and dealing with corruption cases where political and economic problems are intertwined, (watching over) areas that have strong policy support, involve huge investment and resources," the communique said. "(We will) resolutely investigate and deal with corruption in infrastructure construction, project approval, state-owned enterprise reform, public resource allocation and scientific research management."

Scientific and technological innovation was a focus in an outline of the five-year plan released in October, as was the strategic goal of transforming the country into one of the most advanced in the world by 2035.

The CCDI also said in the communique that it would redouble efforts to crack down on corruption that affects the lives of ordinary Chinese.

"(We will) continue to stamp out corruption that affects the masses ... strengthen supervision of policy implementation and measures to benefit the people and promote common prosperity," it said.

Revitalisation of rural areas would be "guaranteed" and graft-busters would target corruption in education, medical care, social welfare, environmental protection, food and drug safety, and law enforcement.

"(We will) also continue to punish the 'protective umbrella' involved in vice," it said referring to collusion between law enforcers and criminal gangs.

The financial sector, state-owned enterprises and law enforcement were highlighted as three key areas where graft-busters would strengthen their efforts in the coming year.

Overseas, the CCDI said it would push for "international cooperation on anti-corruption efforts and the pursuit of (Chinese) fugitives".

According to Alfred Wu, an associate professor with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, the CCDI is taking a strong line at a time when the party especially needs unity and stability.

"The (party congress) will be held next year and we will see the team formed that will execute and oversee the whole long-term development plan with Xi," Wu said. "While the party needs consensus-building and unity, the nation needs stability. That's why the financial sector, the SOEs and the security forces are listed as priorities."

Zhu Lijia, a professor at the state-run Chinese Academy of Governance, said although senior officials snared in Beijing's anti-corruption drive made headlines, the small-scale corruption at the grass-roots level was equally - if not more - "toxic".

"Ordinary people will see cases like Lai Xiaomin, who took huge bribes, as if they're just gossip," Zhu said, referring to the former head of China Huarong Asset Management, who was sentenced to death this month.

"But a village official who embezzles a small fund meant for poverty relief, or a police officer who mistreats a suspect, a school principal who favours a student with a powerful family ... all of these are real problems that affect Chinese," he said.

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