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China’s ‘little tigers’ present political challenge

  • Author:naky
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on:2015-08-26
Zhou Yongkang, the former head of China’s internal security apparatus, was guilty of many sins. After a secret trial conducted in May in the port city of Tianjin, Zhou was sentenced to life in prison for abuse of power, corruption and divulging state secrets.

For all his faults, however, Zhou never negligently stored hundreds of tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate alongside sodium cyanide and other toxic chemicals in a populated area. When one such stockpile exploded in Tianjin on August 12, killing at least 114 people with another 65 still missing, it revealed the paradox at the heart of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. Months before the Tianjin tragedy, I asked the father of a badly injured migrant factory worker what he thought of the anti-corruption drive and the downfall of powerful “tigers” such as Zhou. I expected Zhang Guangde to be impressed by the signature policy achievement of Mr Xi’s first three years in power.

He was not. “The campaign hasn’t reached the grassroots,” said Mr Zhang, who had spent years battling his son’s employer for compensation. “The tiger hunt is a show — a show to be seen by the people. There are still so many mean little tigers at grassroots.”

Perceptions of the anti-corruption campaign’s success rest principally on the arrest and conviction of people such as Zhou, who once sat on the ruling Chinese Communist party’s most powerful body, the Politburo Standing Committee.

But as Mr Zhang intuitively understands from his family’s own bitter experience, for most people in China it is corruption among rank-and-file civil servants that really matters. “Little tigers” include the principal who won’t enrol a student unless a bribe is paid, the doctor who won’t treat a patient without a backhander or, in the case of the Tianjin blasts, the former police chief’s son who is storing lethal chemicals in a populated residential and commercial area.

Not only that, but required permits had been missing at various points in the warehouse’s history, although they appeared to be in order at the time of the blast. And while there is no evidence that the facility’s two owners bribed local officials to look the other way, they acted in a manner that suggested they had much to hide.

Ownership of the Tianjin chemicals warehouse was initially unclear, in part because the city’s online companies registry was suddenly unavailable after the blast. When it did come back up, there were curious gaps in its ownership record.

These revelations appeared to force the government’s hand, as the official Xinhua news agency then reported that the warehouse’s true owners were a former executive at a state chemicals group and the son of the port district’s former police chief. The police chief’s son told Xinhua that he wanted to keep a low profile because “my father worked in the public security bureau and there would be a negative impact if others knew about it”.

As China’s economic problems mount, the country’s unelected regime needs alternative sources of legitimacy. The anti-corruption campaign is an important such source, as it holds up Zhou and other corrupt officials as unrepresentative aberrations now being brought to heel by a just party-state. Another was the 70th anniversary of Japan’s second world war surrender on August 15, which the Tianjin blast overshadowed in spectacular style.

But the thousands of people rendered homeless by last week’s blast — and millions more watching the events unfold across China — may start to see things differently. They might just conclude that unfair advantage and corruption are in fact systemic in a society where officials at every level of government, together with their families and their friends, routinely parlay connections into cash, regardless of the risk to others.