LONDON – China’s annual growth rate has recently increased from below 6% at the start of 2014 to around 7.5% in the second quarter, helped by a series of stealth stimulus measures. But the growth spurt is unlikely to last – and may reverse – as China seeks to control excessive credit expansion. And achieving longer-term sustainable growth will also depend on political factors – particularly the impact of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, aimed at “purifying” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Xi’s campaign is being carried out on a scale rarely witnessed in China’s recent history. So far, some 45 senior CCP officials, or “tigers,” have been disciplined or are under investigation. Aside from former Chongqing Party boss Bo Xilai, who is now serving a life sentence, Zhou Yongkang, a former head of internal security and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, and General Xu Caihou, a former vice president of China’s Military Commission, have also been targeted.
More high-profile heads almost certainly will roll. The CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, whose secretary, Wang Qishan, is a Xi ally, is now investigating former President Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai network, whose protégés include Bo, Zhou, Xu, his successor Hu Jintao, and Xi himself. Corruption charges have already been brought against people close to Jiang and Hu.
Xi’s campaign is aimed at combating systematic corruption, which he claims is jeopardizing the CCP’s very survival. Even before becoming President, he spoke at length about the Marxist-Leninist concept of “Party purity” in an address to the Central Party School in Beijing in March 2012. The Party, he insisted, can command respect and maintain the legitimacy of its rule only if cadres are obedient, set an example of incorruptibility, and place the nation’s interests above their own. Without a “pure” Party, he said, China’s economic reforms would not succeed.