Beijing targets local officials and organized crime

China is cracking down on crime. Here 104 Chinese telecom fraud suspects are escorted by the police at Xianyang International Airport in January 2018. Photo: Zhao Bin/Hua Shang Daily/VCG via Getty Images

The Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council issued a joint notice (中共中央 国务院发出《关于开展扫黑除恶专项斗争的通知》) announcing the launch of a "dedicated struggle" to root out organized crime and the corrupt local officials who protect them, Xinhua reports.

My thought bubble: China has had these campaigns before, but the use of the word "struggle" in the notice likely indicates this time will be much more expansive and harsh.

What the notice says: "China will begin a new campaign against organized crime to ensure social stability and consolidate the foundation of the Party's governance. ... The fight will focus on industries and fields prone to gang crimes and organized crimes that prompt the 'strongest public reaction' and are 'detested' by the people..."

More news: According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a closed-door meeting with the party's top graft watchdog. Per SCMP:

"Xi issued a stark warning over collusion between triads and officials, especially the protectors of mafia-style organizations, which he said had threatened the party’s rule..."
"A source with knowledge of the campaign said Xi attached great importance to the push, which took aim at middle and lower-level cadres. 'It’s not just a usual campaign; it’s been deemed as a fight that the party must win.' he said."

The big picture: Organized crime is a real problem but the main goals of this effort look to be further consolidation of political power and party image improvement among the citizens.

  • Local officials (known as "flies" in contrast to the senior officials who are "tigers") have historically resisted fully implementing central government policies and engaged in visible corruption that has generated significant friction with citizens.
  • Most PRC citizens never meet a "tiger" in their lifetime but have to deal with the "flies" almost every day.

Follow the money: The official announcement also notes that fines can be levied and assets confiscated. Do not be surprised if this "struggle" is also used to shore up the parlous finances of many local governments.

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