“Nobody is sleeping well now” wrote Bo Zhiyue of the Victoria University in Wellington. Uncertainty and a clear lack of investigative protocols have China’s political and military elite tossing and turning in their beds. Networks, or guanxi, the cultural institution of gift giving and reciprocity, has been turned on its head in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s hunt for China’s corrupt tigers and flies among the Party establishment. According to the ChinaFile database “Catching Tigers and Flies,”* 2015 was a landmark year. Below is a look at the numbers for those tigers sentenced, expelled from the Communist Party and/or arrested, and those under investigation.
From the beginning of 2015 there were 21 new investigations opened concerning “tigers,” or those above vice ministerial level. Of those, 13 are major generals, one is a lieutenant general and another is the deputy chief of staff for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy based with the North Sea Fleet in Qingdao. Seven of the major generals under investigation belong in some form or another to the logistics wing of the PLA, in mostly provincial areas. The majority of the tigers newly under investigation in 2015 are based in the capital Beijing.
For those who have already been under investigation, 60 in 2015 have been expelled, arrested, or both. Overwhelmingly, most of the 60 tigers in this category were based in Beijing. In terms of each officials role in the government, including local, regional and national governments, the majority, in this case seven, were Party secretaries with Municipal Party Committees. The next six were major generals, two of whom were attached to the logistics departments of the PLA in Beijing and Guangdong.
Five more in the arrested or expelled category were deputy governors of provinces including two from Shanxi, and one each from Fujian, Inner Mongolia and Jilin. Four more officials were the vice chairmen, at the provincial level, of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the advisory body of the Party. Another four were chairmen of four of China’s State Owned Enterprises including the Jineng (Energy) Group, FAW (automotive) group, China Resources (Holdings) Company Limited and Wuhan Iron and Steel Company Limited.
Three more general managers of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have also been arrested. Jiang Jiemin, perhaps the biggest of the tigers in this category, headed the juggernaut China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). Wang Shuaiting of the Hong Kong CTS Group and Wu Zhenfang of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) were similarly arrested for abusing their positions within their SOEs. Included in the arrested/expelled list is the former president of China’s largest oil refiner Sinopec, Wang Tianpu, who is being charged with abuse of his position, nepotism, accepting and gifts, bribery, extortion, and spending public money on lavish banquets.
In the third category of those sentenced in 2015 for graft, corruption, and abuse of their position, were 19 tigers. An estimation of the sum between 17 of the 19 convicted of extortion amounted to RMB 23.34 million ($3.55 million) on average. The largest sum for 2015 was attributed to Zhou Yongkang, who had amassed RMB 129 million. Zhou was the political czar for former General Secretary Hu Jintao and a retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s highest political organ. Zhou was the biggest tiger of 2015 and his web of contacts has, as expected, resulted in a string of further arrests, among them Jiang Jiemin, who is expected to be sentenced this year.
The second largest tiger of 2015 was Lieutenant General Gu Junshan who became ensnared in the corruption net through his connections to general and former vice chairman of the Central Military Committee (CMC) Xu Caihou. Given a death sentence, later commuted to life, Gu had amassed a fortune so large that it took four trucks and up to 20 paramilitary officers two nights to impound it all, according to a report by Caixin in 2014. Not unsurprisingly (if one is to pay attention to the pattern of major generals newly under suspicion for graft in 2015) Gu was the Deputy Director of the PLA’s General Logistics Department. Logistics within the PLA framework oversees, among other things, construction, housing, supplies, barracks and hospitals for PLA forces. Among other tigers on the sentenced list, there was the former mayor of Nanjing, two deputy governors, two vice governors, a deputy director of Public Security in Beijing, one major general and a host of provincial party officials.
Given the statistics for 2015, what can China and the world expect for 2016? Although it has only just commenced, it is expected that this will be another landmark year. For instance of the 13 major generals newly under investigation in 2015, it can be expected that most, if not all, will be arrested and or expelled from the Party in 2016. If one is to use the numbers of 2014 as a benchmark then the average length of time between “under investigation” and “arrested/expelled” is 4.5 months. Two exceptions in 2014 were Hainan Deputy Governor Ji Wenlin and Yunan Party Secretary Zhang Tianxin, who were investigated and subsequently arrested after five and four days respectively. Substantially, from “arrested/expelled” to “sentenced” takes on average 15 months according to the statistics.
The two biggest tigers to look out for this year will be former director of the Party Central Committee’s General Office and Vice Chairman of the National CPPCC Ling Jihua and former CNPC General Manager Jiang Jiemin. Ling served closely with former leader Hu Jintao. He was put under investigation in late 2014 after his son was killed in a car crash driving a Ferrari. That extravagance put a spotlight on Ling’s finances and served as a warning to the families of similarly well-connected or well-placed Party officials. Jiang Jiemin was strongly connected to, and as a result implicated by, Zhou Yongkang. Jiang was also a strongly placed figure in Zhou’s former Shanxi clique.
*Corrected the name of the ChinaFile database.
Adam Bartley is a PhD Candidate with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and associate member of the Global Research Center. His research interests includes Chinese foreign policy, US-China relations and US China policy. He can be found on Twitter at @AaBartley. All data in this article was analyzed using the Chinafile’s Tigers and Flies database.