By Eunsun Cho
As Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign gains momentum, many scholars are pointing out that the effort appears to be aimed more at removing Xi’s political rivals and enemies than serving as any ideological purge of political malfeasance in Beijing. In the wake of life imprisonment of Zhou Yongkang, the country’s former security chief and the highest ranking member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) ever to be purged since Mao Zedong's era, mapping out the various connections between the targets of this campaign presents a clearer picture of the initiative’s true methods and goals.
As the World Policy Journal Prezi timeline conveys, the many political figures associated with the campaign are interconnected through various channels, spanning from family (Ling Jihua, Ling Zhengce, Ling Wancheng) to a tight-knit underground society (Xishan Club). The intricate web of explicit and hidden ties shows that an investigation of one actor generally signals the uprooting of his or her entire political network. It is only a matter of time before once helpful connections—or ‘guanxi’ in Chinese—turn into inescapable traps.
Throughout these investigations, two groups drew special attention. The first is the “New Gang of Four”—a not-so-subtle reference to the four close historical allies of Mao Zedong. Led by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, fellow revolutionaries Zhang Chunqiao, Wang Hongwen, and Yao Wenyuan wielded an immense political influence during Mao’s era. Thirty years after the demise of the original Gang of Four, the term emerged once again in the CPC. This “New Gang of Four” refers to prominent party members Zhou Yongkang, Ling Jihua, Bo Xilai, and Xu Caihou.
Although the connections between the new ‘Gang’ members are much less apparent than those between the original ‘Gang,’ it is no secret that each new member possesses a threatening level of political influence that would have posed inevitable obstacles to Xi’s rule. For instance, before Xi’s rise as the General Secretary of the CPC, Bo Xilai, a son of a prominent revolutionary leader, was also deemed as a strong contender for leadership in the party. After Xi came into power, scholars predicted that Zhou’s formidable influence within the party might weaken Xi’s power. Zhou and Bo shared a deep political friendship, with Zhou choosing Bo to be his successor as the Secretary of Political and Legal Affairs before they were both investigated. Also, Zhou and Xu are known to be political allies of former President Jiang Zemin. It is reported that, even after retiring, Jiang has remained heavily involved in many decisions of the party through his connections.
Another noteworthy force in China’s Communist Party politics is the Xishan Club, a pseudo-secret society of prominent politicians and businessmen from Shanxi Province. Throughout the anti-corruption campaign, the close ties among the members of the club has only hastened their fall. For example, soon after Zhang Xinming, one member of Xishan Club, was put under investigation, several other members of the club successively became targets of corruption investigation.
The slideshow features each person in the order of the latest development in his or her case (as of July 20, 2015). Also, this Prezi captures only a part of the vast network behind the ongoing purge—it would be impossible to fit everyone into a single understandable timeline. Although the Prezi shows the plight of each subject, one fallen politician at a time, you can still drag the cursor to the direction that you want to further explore that figure’s connections to the party and the larger campaign.
Eunsun Cho is an editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.
[Photo courtesy of Wikipedia]