In my last post I noted that political decentralization, and the inter-jurisdictional competition it fostered, could potentially suppress local corruption and promote economic growth. My enthusiasm was fanned by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) aggressive anticorruption campaign. Since President Xi Jinping took power, there has been a wave of anticorruption purges against powerful military and government officials. The very public purge of Zhou Yongkang, a retired official described as “the most powerful man in China,” seems to be an indication that Xi is fulfilling his promise of zero tolerance against “tigers” and “flies.”
However, my optimism has been tempered by recent news that two more anticorruption activists have gone on trial in China. The fact that the two activists from New Citizens Movement—Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei—campaigned for officials to disclose their assets, a cause that echoed CCP’s official aspiration (see here and here) only made the arrests more perplexing.
This seems like a glaring contradiction. Why does the Chinese leadership continue to trumpet on about anticorruption and simultaneously arrest anticorruption activists?