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Analysts: General's Indictment to Bolster Xi

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FILE - Chinese General Xu Caihou listens to national anthems during welcome ceremony at the Pentagon, Washington.

FILE - Chinese General Xu Caihou listens to national anthems during welcome ceremony at the Pentagon, Washington.

With formal graft charges levied against one of the country's top military officers earlier this week, Chinese academics are calling President Xi Jianping's latest anti-corruption move a strong political decision and the possible precursor to more arrests.

The allegations that retired General Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, took bribes in exchange for giving promotions marks the highest-profile corruption case since that of disgraced politician Bo Xilai in 2013.

Yang Zhaohui, a professor of political science at Peking University, said Xu's indictment, which was announced Monday, will strengthen the Chinese president politically.

"I think Xi Jingping's anti-graft campaign has the primary objective of stabilizing the Communist Party," he said. "He is using this anti-graft campaign to regain legitimacy and trust for the Communist Party in the eyes of the people. At the same time, Xi wants to improve the image of the Communist Party in the international arena."

Xu is accused of accepting bribes and putting a price tag on military promotions as second-in-command of China's 2.3 million armed forces until his retirement last year.

Xin Ziling, professor at China's Defense University and retired People's Liberation Army officer, said the entire military resented him.

"Xu Caihou has taken the military to be a market. He has sold military positions for money for years. This situation went too far," he said. "Under the circumstances, the military has no power to fight. Those military officers claimed they are loyal to this [person], or loyal to that [person]. In fact, you know, they are only loyal to the person who provides the positions that they paid for. Xu Caihou is very unpopular with the troops at this point. The whole military is so resentful of him.”

Ziling said Jianping has taken on "big tigers" like Caihou, but also "small flies."

The day Xu's indictment was announced, Chinese state media also released the names of three other men, who along with the retired general, have been ousted from the Communist Party for graft — a move that could signal charges in their future as well.

The men are said to be said to be allies of China's former security chief Zhou Yongkang.

Zhou is a former senior Communist Party official and Politburo Standing Committee member and is widely believed to be at the center of a separate corruption probe. He is thought to be in custody but has not been formally charged.

Jiang Weiping, a Chinese expert on anti-corruption issues, said the nexus between all of the men is disgraced politician Bo Xilai, who is currently serving life in prison on corruption charges.

Weiping added that the charges against Xu likely mean that "many, many people in the Chinese military" may face similar charges in the future.

"Zhou Yongkang is a close friend of Bo Xilai, so is Xu Caihou," said Weiping. "Now the case of Xu Caihou has been dealt with first. That shows Xi Jianping is wise. The problem of military needs to be solved first. In China, whoever can control the military power can seize the whole power strongly."

Xu, 71, who was also a member of the Politburo, has been living under virtual house arrest for months.

He is the highest-ranking official to date swept up by President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption since taking office in 2012.

An editorial on the front page of military's official People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper on Tuesday supported Xu's expulsion from the party and called for military officers to support the decision.

This story was written in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.

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