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July 24, 2014

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Strategist

What triggers getting purged? Is it being the first one to stop clapping during the standing ovation, or do you have to have had your fingers pretty flagrantly in the till?

I.e., is it a fair purge, as purges go? (And is it being viewed as such by the folks?) Have we just got clique warfare, with very corrupt people who happen to have backed the right horse being left in place, whilst less corrupt or even non-corrupt people who have the backed the wrong horse, or have the wrong patron, get wiped out? Or have all the people being purged misbehaved fairly badly?

So how well do these jobs get done?
Is it conceivable that the purge might actually get the jobs done better, if the most crooked are removed, and the rest are looking to keep their nose clean? Or is that very off beam?

jamie

The proximate starting point was the decision to go after Zhou Yongkang in a serious way. Before that you had the throat clearing fun stuff with all those sub-provincial officials getting caught on sex tapes.

I think it's basically what it says on the tin. Xi said repeatedly that corruption would kill the party so he's going after it. he has enough support in the wider party to make it stick over a long period of time. he's going to do it strictly by Leninist methods, and he's going to make the rubble bounce before he stops.

etudiant

It is difficult to fight a two front war.
China badly needs massive economic reforms to boost consumption and curb overinvestment, yet the purge fears paralyze the economic leadership.
Gorbachev also tried to reform his economy and purge his party simultaneously, hope Xi has better luck.

nick s

Is it conceivable that the purge might actually get the jobs done better, if the most crooked are removed, and the rest are looking to keep their nose clean?

Well, think about it this way: if you think you're good at your job, but the office gossip is that there are layoffs on the horizon and Head Office is looking through your personnel files, but you've never actually met anyone from Head Office and all they know about you is via a few tiers of management, you might be somewhat distracted from your work and worried that certain decisions might be seen less favourably from on high when they were really just business as usual.

Now magnify that by whatever multiplier you consider appropriate for "hauled away by the heavies" instead of "laid off".

Have there been any good big-picture assessments of the extent to which graft ceases to be a lubricant for Getting Stuff Done in China and instead becomes an impediment?

dsquared

sorry, commentus interruptus. Was just going to make the point that, per Nick S, you also have the effect on junior employees of the prospect of their boss being purged - if you've got a really good reforming idea, you don't want to waste it on impressing a guy who's about to be led away in irons.

jamie

per Nick S, the classic account in recent years of how corruption and development in China dovetail in incredibly complex ways is a monograph about Bengbu in Anhui, published in 2009 in an Australian journal. Can't find it right now, but it's out there somewhere.

As Caijing noted, most corruption is over land, property and infrastructure, so presumably the hope is that the purge will reinforce the trend away from overinvestment. So far as I can tell you never got to the stage where the *corruption* was corrupt - you usually got what you paid for. If not, you wouldn't have had those complex systems of alternative currency that developed - debit cards, cigarettes, calligraphy etc. There are of course scandals around collapsing infrastructure etc, but if you build 500 bridges and 20 collapse, its a bearable deadweight cost. Obviously, it's a shame about the people who were actually on the bridges when they collapsed, but like little Deng said, 'development is the only hard truth.'

Yet all of that was only tolerable because of China's absolutely astonishing growth levels. Part of the message here is that this is over now: in a best case scenario, growth for the forseeable future will be much lower and so will not be able to bear the existing costs of corruption.

AS regards the two-front war, it's the CPC's perception that Gorby's big mistake was glasnost, ie trying to open up the system at the same time he was putting it under pressure. So it's easy for the mid to high ranking cadres to say sod it, let's give the punters some votes, get the pressure off and split up the goodies between ourselves, which is more or less what happened in the Russian Soviet space.

Lastly, I think the wider target here is the people who are environmentally corrupt - ie corrupt because they don't want to stick out. They might not be particularly honest but they don't necessarily want to spend *every* night getting shitfaced at a banquet and their days scrabbling to make the wherewithal to get the boss presents and favours. Shake up the system to the point where this patronage network breaks down and you just may get a virtuous circle going.

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