Xi Jinping’s charge to fight corruption in China is making its way deeper into the People’s Liberation Army. On Thursday, China’s military said that it would clamp down on accountability processes and controls for the construction and sale of buildings for the PLA. The move is intended to promote “proper accounting and transparency for all financial transactions,” according to Reuters. These policies follow from broader attempts to regulate corruption within the Chinese military.
The latest rules require that revenue from the sale of military buildings should reach the military promptly and in full. Additionally, the approval process for new projects will grow in scope. The rules also warn that new building work should not stray from pre-approved plans in scope or size. The new rules were posted on the official PLA Daily and will go into effect on March 1.
“The approval process must be open and transparent and supervised effectively,” PLA Daily said, adding, “Make decisions in accordance with the law and effectively prevent corruption.” The report did not mention the size or scope of the military’s corruption problem, nor did it mention punishment for officers involved in corruption and the abuse of power.
Earlier this month, PLA Daily reported that Chinese authorities took action against 27,000 illegal occupants in military apartments over a seven-month period in 2013.
Attempts to fight corruption in the Chinese armed forces first began in earnest in the late-1990s, when PLA officers were banned from engaging in business directly. During the Jiang Zemin era, PLA involvement in civilian economic activity was seen as damaging to the military’s readiness and thus the central party leadership promoted divestment by the army from any non-military business ventures.
President Xi Jinping, who consolidated power last year after being appointed party General-Secretary in 2012, has made anti-corruption efforts a cornerstone of his domestic reform plans. Both high profile cases and broader policy reviews, such as that within the PLA, are part of what has been described as an effort to nab both “tigers and flies.” Among the former, many believe that Zhou Yongkang, a former Politburo Standing Committee member and former Minister of Public Security, could soon face trial for corruption. If true, he would be the highest ranking CCP member to ever face trial in PRC history. Ji Wenlin, the vice-governor of Hainan province with links to Zhou, is also under investigation for “suspected serious violation of discipline and laws.”
Anti-corruption efforts within the PLA could be an effort by Xi, who is chairman of the Central Military Commission in addition to his role as president, to centralize power within China’s military apparatus. PLA Daily has noted Xi’s involvement in the past. “President Xi personally approved plans…and demonstrated strong leadership in every important step and aspect,” it reported earlier this month.
The decision to stamp out corruption within the ranks of the PLA also has important strategic ramifications and has caused some anxiety for senior Chinese leaders. PLA General Liu Yuan told officers in the PLA that “no country can defeat China … only our own corruption can destroy us and cause our armed forces to be defeated without fighting.” Additionally, PLA Colonel Liu Mingfu claimed in a book that “the People’s Liberation Army has reached a stage in which its biggest danger and No. 1 foe is corruption.”