By Willy Lam (author of The Era of Jiang Zemin)
East-Asia-Intel.com, October 2, 2013
After nabbing “big tigers” such as former Politburo member Bo Xilai and at least five former executives of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), President Xi Jinping seems to be moving his anti-graft campaign to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its sister unit, the People’s Armed Police (PAP).
Late last month, Xi, who is also Chairman of the policy-setting Central Military Commission (CMC) sent a circular to all PLA and PAP units entitled “On strengthening and improving the auditing of the economic responsibility of leading cadres in the military.”
The paper pointed out that in light of the fact that the defense budget had increased to more than 700 billion yuan, officers of all divisions must exercise utmost caution in spending. The circular also threatened to mete out “severe punishment” to corrupt military officers.
There are, however, institutional drawbacks to combating corruption in military departments, which control vast tracts of land and infrastructure as well as other valuable economic resources. Furthermore, the Communist Party’s highest anti-graft unit, the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI), which is headed by Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Qishan, has no authority over the defense establishment.
The PLA has its own disciplinary-inspection department, which is a unit within the General Political Department. But China’s military scholars have repeatedly queried whether the army’s anti-corruption unit has enough clout and independence to investigate full generals.
Secondly, the PLA auditing unit, which will carry out Xi’s just-announced army-wide auditing drive, is located within the PLA’s General Logistics Department (GLD). Since it controls huge budgets for infrastructure and housing projects as well as for feeding and clothing PLA and PAP officers, the GLD is often considered the most corrupt division of the military forces.
Given the Chinese tradition of respecting elders as well as superiors in the work place, however, it will be difficult for PLA auditors to keep close tabs on GLD expenditures.
Early last year, Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, the deputy head of the GLD, was detained for unspecified “economic crimes.” He is the highest-ranked general in more than a decade to have been put under investigation for corruption-related offences. However, the CMC has given no indication as to when Gen. Gu would be put on trial.
Gen. Gu is known to enjoy the protection of the just-retired CMC Vice-Chairman Xu Caihou, who is also a former Politburo member. Gen. Xu was away from the media limelight from the 18th Party Congress last November until Oct. 1 when he showed up at a banquet marking the October 1 National Day.
It is understood that ex-president Jiang Zemin, who was CMC chairman from 1989 to 2004, does not favor a large-scale anti-corruption crusade within the armed forces. He reportedly told protégé President Xi that arresting too many members of the top brass might deal a blow to morale, which is necessary when the PLA is pulling out all the stops to narrow its gap with the United States defense forces.
The mainland media has reported that the two sons of ex-President Jiang, Jiang Mianheng and Jiang Miankang, are successful entrepreneurs and that their business clients include different units of the PLA as well as the country’s huge aerospace industry.