China has launched a formal investigation against Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body.
Widespread corruption inside the Chinese Communist Party has raised serious questions about the efficacy of its self-regulation. While persistent housecleaning is conducive to the CPC’s image and legitimacy, well-thought-out mechanisms are a more reliable solution, and will do the job much better.
As luck would have it, I was in Beijing when word came of China’s apparent hacking of the New York Times. The newspaper says it became the target of sustained cyber-attack immediately after it had revealed the vast fortune – estimated as “at least $2.7bn” – amassed by the family of China’s outgoing premier, Wen Jiabao. Among the dead giveaways: hostile activity on the NYT‘s system dropped off during Chinese public holidays. It seems even state-sponsored hackers need a day off.
IN HUNAN province last August, Tang Hui was sentenced to 18 months in a labour camp. Her crime was to demand tougher sentences for the men who had kidnapped and raped her 11-year-old daughter. In days gone by, Ms Tang would simply have disappeared. In the age of the microblog, thousands of incensed middle-class people took up her case. Ms Tang was released, and on January 7th the government announced that the labour-camps system would be reformed.
In Guangzhou last week, allegedly under orders from the provincial propaganda chief, an editorial in Southern Weekend, a reformist newspaper, was altered before publication. The original called for greater respect of rights enshrined in China’s constitution. The amended version praised the Communist Party and China’s political system. Some Southern Weekend staff called a strike and supporters protested outside their offices in Guangzhou, chanting political slogans of a sort rarely heard on China’s streets since 1989. In both cases, officials were in breach of China’s constitution.
Bloomberg News mapped the families of Communist China’s “Eight Immortals” to reveal the origins of princelings, an elite class that has been able to amass wealth and influence, and exploit opportunities unavailable to most Chinese. Bloomberg tracked 103 people – descendants including children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and their respective spouses. The Immortals, now all dead, are revered in communist lore as revolutionary fighters who led China’s economic opening after Mao Zedong’s death. The identities and business dealings of these families are often cloaked in secrecy because of state censorship and complex corporate webs.
The diplomatic wisdom of incoming US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to improve China-US relations, as the Obama administration seeks to rebalance its Asian strategy during the president’s second term. President Barack Obama on Saturday nominated Senator Kerry, the son of a diplomat, as his next secretary of state to replace Hillary Clinton, and commentators say that given his track record and reputation, his appointment is almost certain to be confirmed.
Among the challenges facing Kerry will be to improve ties between China and the US, which have worsened since Washington’s rebalancing policy in the Asia-Pacific region, experts said. “China-US ties have deteriorated through a series of high-profile measures by the US aimed at rebalancing, especially the over-emphasis of military action, which triggered great antipathy from China,” said Ruan Zongze, a US studies researcher and the deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies.
Much has changed in China over the past decade, from the tens of millions of former peasants who are now members of the middle class, to the Prada, Hermès, and Gucci boutiques that now crowd the malls of Beijing and Shanghai — but not the fashion stylings of China’s top leaders. The single-breasted navy two-button suits, semi-spread-collar white shirts, and unmemorable ties in a Windsor knot remain obligatory. Almost without exception, top leaders still sport iconic jet-black dye jobs, intended to conceal age just as the boxy suits conceal differences in physique. At a time of transition, the Chinese Communist Party is all the more determined to show unity, continuity, and commitment to stability, making sartorial adventurism inappropriate.
At the time, millions of young people were still clawing their way back to China’s urban centers after being exiled to the countryside in the Mao era. But 30-year-old Xi Jinpingbucked the trend, giving up a secure post as adviser to a top military leader to navigate the tumultuous village politics of Zhengding, in Hebei Province.