(Photo: Andrew Wong/AFP/Getty Images)
Beijing’s normally passive political factions are on the move. Usually, they must lie low to avoid unwanted attention or being singled out as a threat. But in 2016 this passivity will become a liability. The 19th Party Congress will begin in October 2017, bringing the retirement of several top officials and marking the halfway point of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tenure as the Communist Party’s general secretary. The networks of power that form — or break — in the next year will determine the shape of China’s next political order.
Xi, however, has prepared for the coming order. In 2012, he launched a nationwide anti-corruption campaign, which he used to eliminate his rival, Bo Xilai, and capture the presidency and the position of general secretary. For four years he has been steadily rooting out barriers to his power throughout the government. In the coming year, Xi will escalate this campaign to unprecedented levels.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), already stretched to its limits, now plans to push the campaign even further. The agency announced Dec. 6 that it would finish inspecting all 280 government bodies by the end of 2017, having already investigated 149 since late 2012. Of the remaining 131 organizations, the CCDI will investigate at least 100 in 2016. Although it will severely tax the agency, the target is feasible. However, the hectic and broad CCDI investigations of 2016 will likely force targeted groups to take desperate action, including bribery or murder, and will enable ambitious cadres to hijack the process to further their own interests. Xi will need to proceed carefully to avoid destabilizing the party structure while strengthening his hold on it.
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