China Takes Down Sinopec's No. 2


China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has announced an investigation into a high-ranking oil executive, the latest sign that China’s state-owned enterprises (particularly those in the energy field) are providing fertile ground for Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption. The CCDI announced on Monday that Wang Tianpu, the general manager of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (more commonly known as Sinopec) is being investigated for “serious law and discipline violations.”

A source told China’s Caixin that Wang was suspected of arranging for his relatives to profit from dealings with Sinopec.

As Sinopec’s number two, Wang is one of the highest-ranking SOE executives to be caught up in the corruption probes. He resigned from his post as vice chairman on Monday, Bloomberg Business reported, citing a Hong Kong stock exchange filing.

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Reforming China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is seen as a crucial part of the reforms necessary to usher in a new era of sustainable economic growth for China. As Xi and company get serious about changing the way SOEs operate, they are also targeting SOE executives with anti-corruption investigations – a neat way of removing those who would oppose reforms in favor of protecting their own interests.

In February, CCDI announced disciplinary inspections at 26 SOEs, nearly double the 14 SOEs targeted for investigation in 2013 and 2014. CCDI head Wang Qishan noted a number of problems endemic to SOEs, from graft and bribery to nepotism and “the forming of cliques.”

When it comes to Sinopec in particular, rumors have suggested that the company would be merged with another Chinese oil giant, China National Petroleum Corp., as part of a reorganizational shake-up. Sinopec and CNPC were ranked third and fourth, respectively, on the Fortune Global 500 List for 2014. CNPC, the old stomping grounds of the now-disgraced Zhou Yongkang, has already been hit hard by anti-corruption efforts; now it seems to be Sinopec’s turn.

So far, many of the probes into China’s oil giants have focused on ties to Zhou Yongkang. Wang’s case appears to be headed in the same direction. Caixin cited a source as saying that Wang is believed to have helped Zhou’s son, Zhou Bin, sell equipment to Sinopec’s Shengli Oilfield. But another source told Caixin Wang was not closely connected to Zhou, an indication that the anti-corruption probe may be widening its focus.

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