In China’s Shanxi province, 15,450 government officials were removed from office on corruption charges in 2014, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. This included seven top leaders according to a March 24, 2015, “Stratfor” article entitled, “China’s Anti-corruption Drive Runs Deep.” These removals of public officials could be the beginning of a purge by Chinese President Xi Jinping to not only root out endemic corruption in the Chinese government, but it is also a purge of Communist Party members in China. Xi knows those who have benefited from the past 30 years of Deng Xiao Ping’s reforms will resist the necessary changes China has to make to its economy.
China has grown an average of more than 10 percent a year during the past 30 years. The way it did so was to become a cheap-labor country that mainly exported its products to the rest of the world. As a result of this approach, China has emerged as the No. 2 economic power. But its success is also its undoing. As the standard of living has risen, so have expectations of a better lifestyle for its workers. Wages have risen and China is no longer a cheap-labor country.
Europe and North America have had economic difficulties since the Great Recession beginning in 2008, which hurt China’s export economy and is forcing a new direction.
China must change the model created by Deng Xiao Ping. Xi Jinping must make the difficult transition to a new economic model where the Chinese start consuming their own products rather than continuing as an export giant.
According to the “Stratfor” article, part of the reason for China’s increased militancy with its neighbors has been to focus attention of the Chinese citizenry away from its internal problems and outward against Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam, and by extension, the United States.
All of these countries are feeling the threat and are looking to the U.S. to pivot toward Asia to help these island nations protect their security against China’s rise. President Obama is trying to accomplish this pivot, but pressing crises in the Middle East and in Ukraine are hindering him.
Meanwhile, Xi is facing the problem that when he purges the nation of corrupt government officials, he is also decreasing the ability of government to function efficiently. While corrupt, those officials knew how the system worked. If they’re no longer there, the government will not function as well and this will frustrate the average Chinese and cause uncertainty and fear.
Xi also has to deal with the problem that the coastal areas of the east are prosperous while the interior regions in the west have much higher poverty rates. So he must balance these reforms to keep the poorer interior regions growing without taking away the gains of the coastal region.
According to the “Stratfor” article, for the removal of corruption to be successful it must be vast. But those changes could frighten officials who see those purges reaching them and fearful people are dangerous and will tend to resist change. If 15,450 government officials were removed in one province due to corruption in 2014, what must many corrupt government officials be thinking in their own provinces?
China is in a period of tumultuous and necessary change. Now is the time to be paying attention to China, because with a population of 1.4 billion people, what happens there will affect the entire world.