Home Political science China’s Ethical Revolution and Regaining Legitimacy: Reforming the Communist Party through Its Public Servants
For the Party, corruption has evolved from individual wrongdoings into institutionalized corruption that often involves a complicated guanxi network between high-ranking officials, businessmen, army or police and mafia (Fan 2002: 377). Thus, it is believed thatguanxi provides a fertile soil in China for corruption to flourish (377). Thus, President Xi repeatedly advocates, the Party must “fight corruption at every level, punish every corrupt official, and eradicate the soil that breeds corruption.” Cases involving high-ranking officials, such as Zhou Yong Kang, Bo Xi Lai and Ling Jihua, are all allegedly connected with factionalism, and the latter, it has emerged, is often the most serious aspect of their wrongdoings. Thus, anti-factionalism is first and foremost a component of the rehabilitating of the Party’s ecology and authority. This is to be achieved through investigating high-ranking officials and their affiliates who are singled out by the anti-corruption campaign. Thus, rehabilitating the Party’s ecology (and authority) is through the process of identifying high-ranking corrupt officials and then proceeding to investigate and purge the Party of their corruption, which primarily take the form of corrupted relationship.
In this sense, corruption is less about the proliferation of rotten apples undermining a healthy organizational logic for their own “private” ends, than it is about the spread of elite networks that distribute state resources according to their own logics (Osburg 2013: 85). These informal networks, which transcend state and society and legal and illegal realms, complicate any neat division between the state and civil society and blur the lines between official state organs and illicit forms of authority (86). Thus, if we acknowledge that the separation between the public and the private is indistinguishable where religion and faith are interrelated, it becomes clear that the moral and the legal realms are co-constitutive (Clarke 2010: 117).
Similarly, in the form of bribe corruption, the bribe giver and the bribe receiver establish a stable relationship through the exchange of interests.
In this relationship, the official who is the agent of the Party takes over the authority of the Party and becomes the centre of authority. As many officials explain to us: “The corrupt behaviour is about abusing power.” The abuse of power disrupts the division between the public and private. Loyalty to a person thus replaces loyalty to the Party. The problem with this tension is that factionalists may enjoy acting as sovereigns in their semi-private realms; however, their activities are a direct challenge to the supreme sovereignty of the central committee, and this results in what Russo calls the “de-politicization” of the Party (2006: 679). Thus, these tensions between the private and public are the sources for radical critiques in view of the depoliticization of the public sphere and of the state (Sigurdson 2010: 182). This is the place which enables the potential revolting power struggles inside the Party to become a possibility (Huang 2012). In order to prevent this from happening, the anti-corruption campaign intends on eliminating factionalists and factionalism by a “police operation” (Agamben 2000: 106-107).
In this sense, economic crime associated with corruption is only a technique used by the Party to govern officials, rather than its primary objective. This is probably why many forms of privilege seeking have been classified as being more severe varieties of corruption than just economic corruption (Young 1984: 35). What is clear, however, is that the problem of corruption within the Party is fundamentally the problem of authority. Moreover, as there is an indiscernibility or hybridization between Chinese culture and state laws, it is difficult to separate juridical and ethical problems in terms of corruption. It is indeed this indiscernibility between the juridical and ethical where the Party has introduced the state of exception based on the rule of the Party rather than on the rule of laws. We will discuss these practices in greater detail in Chap. 5.
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