Who's Your Daddy: Politics and Revenge in China's Anti-Corruption Campaign


It is no accident that Nanjing is the first provincial capital in China to have both its mayor and party secretary investigated for corruption. After the fall of Nanjing Mayor Ji Jianye, Ji’s father-in-law took revenge on the party secretary and brought him down as well.

The rise of Ji Jianye could be partly attributed to his father-in-law, Gao Dezheng, former vice chairman of the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Congress. When Ji started his political career as a staff member of the Propaganda Department of the Shazhou County Party Committee in the 1970s, Gao was the party secretary of the same county.

After Gao was transferred to Suzhou as deputy party secretary, Ji was appointed as deputy editor-in-chief of the Suzhou Daily. After Gao was promoted to executive vice governor of Jiangsu, Ji was subsequently promoted to deputy party secretary of Wuxian County. After Gao retired, Ji continued his political rise. He was appointed acting mayor of Yangzhou (the hometown of Jiang Zemin) in July 2001 and was further promoted to acting mayor of Nanjing in August 2009.

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In addition to political capital, Ji also accumulated substantial academic credentials. He studied politics at Suzhou University from 1983 to 1985, was enrolled in a graduate course in public administration from 1996 to 1998, took nine-month training in the United States, received a master’s degree in constitutional law and administrative law in 2002, and obtained a Ph.D. in constitutional law and administrative law in 2006.

On January 21, 2010, Dr. Ji was overwhelmingly elected as mayor of Nanjing. A grateful new mayor, Ji pledged that he would not let the people of Nanjing down. Three years later, however, on October 17, 2013, he did just that. He was placed under investigation for corruption and was subsequently dismissed as mayor of Nanjing.

His father-in-law, now a retiree, was no longer in a position to help. But Gao would not sit idle. A couple of months after the downfall of Ji, Gao reportedly went to Beijing to report on the then-party secretary of Nanjing, Yang Weize.

Ji’s political partner for two and a half years, Yang quickly distanced himself from Ji after the latter’s downfall. He likened the dismissal of Ji from his posts to cancer surgery. “It is painful, but the body will recover,” he said. Based on his suspicion that it was Yang who first reported on Ji, Gao decided to get his revenge on Yang. Finally, on January 4, 2015, Yang was put under investigation for corruption.

In the era of “powerful daddies” (pin die) in China, it is the best to have a good biological father (qin die). If not, you need to find a good father-in-law or at least a godfather (gan die). Thanks to his father-in-law’s revenge, Ji will have some comfort during his 15-year jail term.

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