Home Political science China’s Ethical Revolution and Regaining Legitimacy: Reforming the Communist Party through Its Public Servants
Party as the Shadow State
Rehabilitating the Party’s Ecology
As President Xi vows: “The emphasis of the current anti-corruption campaign is to target those officials who continue their wrong doings after the time in which the new leadership was elected, and against those whom the populace complained most vehemently about, and those who are possibly to be promoted in the future.” In this discourse, it first appears that the rationality of the current anti-corruption movement is to improve the authority of the new leadership by attacking those who “continue their wrong doings,” and by so doing to pacify the complaints of the people, and to deter the promotion of those who have ambitions to become the head of corrupt factions. As Fabre argues, on the one hand “corruption has to be maintained as contributing to the stability of the Party-state apparatus via rent-seeking,1 while, on the other, it has to be resisted as destabilising for political authority and a threat to the survival of the regime” (2001: 459). In this section, we will address this factional problem in more detail.
In this discourse, the Party secretary is assigned responsibility for the reconstruction of political moral ecology. For example, President Xi said, “we must grab the Party committees as the core responsible units for reconstructing the Party ecology, while discipline inspection committees do the tackling of corruption cases” (26 June 2014). From this discourse, we can see a clear separation between the work of moralization
(reconstructing the Party’s ecology) and the work of anti-corruption (identifying and removing rotten apples). This is why the Party’s rehabilitation and reestablishment have been decreed as the highest priority for all Party committees at all levels.
Moreover, since President Xi took over as Party chief, the role of ad hoc CDIC inspection teams has been strengthened and enhanced in terms of their scope, intensity and frequency of inspections (Guo 2014: 613). There is a medical metaphor usually adopted by senior officials to illustrate the role of the DIC within the Party. It is said “discipline inspection work is like a nurse tending the Party’s health. The DIC has to keep constant watch over the Party’s condition, paying close attention to ideological trends, to prevent the spread of any diseases which appear” (Young 1984: 41). In this field, the DIC acts as nurses who are the crucial agents of the Central Party “organs,” who are the doctors (Young 1984). As such, the DIC has investigated Party committees, the Army and the administration, and President Xi was even able to investigate the disciplinary department itself in his “root and branch” campaign to eradicate the disease of corruption. In this context, sovereign power is not exercised primarily through laws, but mainly through disciplinary or regulatory measures. As Wang Qishan, DIC chief, asserts:
This is not surprising, since the emergence of human civilization, corruption exists. At this point, we should be more self-confident. Sometimes there is more, sometimes less [corruption]. As long as we are in accordance with the Party Central Committee’s request, to maintain the political power, we must have confidence. Our Party has the ability to solve the problem. We must have confidence. Outsiders say, our Party can’t solve this problem, we Chinese Communist do not believe this assertion. We are in the socialist road with Chinese characteristic. We should have confidence, we can find the problems and, solve the problems. We should be full of confidence on our path and on our Party’s theory. That is, the confidence to transform theory into concrete action.
As we have shown in Chap. 4, Chinese leaders’ confidence (as a doctor) in diagnosing corruption comes from identifying corruption as a problem facilitated through factionalism. Factionalism which is seen as a result of individualist tendencies caused by economic practices in China is often also associated with its ecological problems. As a low-level official from an Education Department says:
Just as we think the problems of the predatory economic development, destructive exploitation of resources caused environmental problems for our country, Isn’t it the same for the morality of our Party?
In this discourse, the official resents the idea of parallel degeneration based on indifference to the people and the environment. Thus just as accelerated economic practices are causing the destruction of the natural ecology in China, the morality of officials as presented in terms of a political ecology is also perceived as being problematic in this context. A report by the CDIC confirms this, “some local political ecology has been deteriorating, cadres were involved in power trading, trading power for money, trade of power and sex, transporting interests, curbing corruption is still arduous” (2015). Thus, like the environment pollution issues in China, the individualistic tendencies that are associated with the formation of factions are also seen as making victims of officials, that is, “being hunted, bullied and coerced into corruption” (CDIC report 2015). In this sense, the construction of the China Dream also responds to the twin problems of corruption and individualization, whereby the old forms of the Party become less dominant and less sure (Yang 2008: 179). Thus, to be a noncorrupt Party member is to be loyal to the Party. As a high-ranking official from a provincial government explained to us:
Some rules of the Party are stipulated in explicit terms, whereas some of them are not. But we should understand that the most important point (to be non-corrupt) is to see whether they are aware of the Party’s requirement, whether they act as communists. That is to say, the way they value the Party’s rules is an important test of the loyalty to the Party and is the most obvious characteristic of being a Party member and good cadre of the Party.
Thus, similar to the logic of biopolitics, the Party has initiated various resocializing practices to maintain the health of the Party and to sustain its legitimacy by maintaining the loyalties of communist members. By so doing, the Party has replaced legal code with Party policy, replaced judiciary power with Party power, and replaced legal punishment with Party discipline (Zhou 2006: 17). Thus, corruption becomes defined as the infraction of the Party’s ethos, discipline and rules. One of the mid-level officials we interviewed from the Disciplinary Department explained the Party’s disciplinary landscape thus:
To such a big Party, administering the Party not only depends on the Party’s disciplinary codes, but also relies on the Party’s traditions and work practices. Discipline is the written rule, rules are unwritten discipline; discipline is rigid, rules are the discipline for self-restraint. Many rules of the Party are based on the fine traditions and work practice over a long time. The articles of the Party constitution, including rigid constraints like the Party discipline, the laws of the state, as well as the fine traditions and work practices of the Party are formed over a long period.
That is to say, as numerous corruption cases indicated, the conduct of Party members was often found to depart from the formal rules and stated goals of the Party (Gong 2008: 144). The discourse of the Party’s traditions is emphasized here for the purpose of addressing the problems of the present. As a result, there are various hybridizations between traditions and modern techniques in the governing process within the Party. We will reveal various exemplary cases of this hybridization throughout the subsequent chapters of this book.
The living law within the Party is not like immobile and immortal laws. It is simply the Party’s will, and its will is defined according to its care in leading China towards the great rejuvenation of its past. The Party’s power is organized by the need to govern. Members are bound together in a completely different way than by the law that lays down the rules of conduct (Foucault et al. 2014: 65). Similar to what Foucault finds, if the Party is obliged to govern by the mandate of history, it is because history enables the Party to address its current “problems” through the great rejuvenation of China (65). The Party’s discipline inspection system was thus strengthened in the context of an urgent need for fighting and preventing the moral degeneration and corruption of Party members (Gong 2008: 144).
The anti-corruption campaign has thus presented the Party with the legitimacy and opportunity for creating new political categories that are beyond the reach of the law (Veg 2014: 531), such as “the forging of factionalism within the Party” and “having mistresses.” But, there remains a fundamental question to be answered: What is the relationship between state law and Party regulations? From the above we can infer that there is an overlap between Party decrees and state laws; however, the binary opposition in operation in the context of the anti-corruption campaign does not primarily emphasize legality/illegality, but more accurately morality/immorality. In many ways, corruption and behaviour that have come to be associated with it are increasingly becoming determined by the programmatic requirements of the moral Party system itself; thus, it is simply irrelevant to the legal system (Beyer 2013: 48). In this sense, “utility” acts as a measure internal to the assessment of public authority (Dean 2016: 105). Thus, even if some corruption cases are prosecutable, not all cases that qualify for consideration are forwarded for prosecution (Guo 2014: 617-618). They proceed based on “the doctor’s” discretion. This is also why China’s legal and justice system is often seen as “rule by the people” (renzhi АП) instead of “rule of law,” and consequently the laws and their application are constantly changing (618). In the Party’s disciplinary and regulatory anti-corruption system, leaders of the Party can perform the roles of prosecutor, investigator, judge and executor of justice (Zhou 2006: 19-20).
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