BEIJING— Chinese authorities have fired a high-ranking economic official in what appears to be part of a widening of the country’s crackdown on corruption. Political analysts said the firing of Jiang Jiemin, who used to head up an official body that oversees China's state-owned enterprises, is also part of an effort by authorities to gain more control of state backed companies.
China’s Xinhua news agency said Jiang Jiemin was removed from his post as head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission because of suspected serious disciplinary violations, a phrase commonly used to describe corruption.
The decision comes just two days after authorities announced Jiang was the target of an investigation. It also comes amid a widening probe into four top executives at the state owned oil company China National Petroleum Corporation or CNPC.
Jiang previously served as the chairman of CNPC and its subsidiary PetroChina. Jiang has been gradually rising up within the ranks of China’s state-run oil industry over the past two decades.
City University of Hong Kong political scientist Joseph Cheng said the decision to go after Jiang and other top oil executives is a sign the government is trying to reign in state owned companies as the government seeks to promote serous economic reforms.
“The top officials of these very powerful state owned enterprises are more or less independent kingdoms, they are the targets, so these cases will create a sort of threatening affect, a deterrent effect, which hopefully will help the leadership to push through reform. The reform probably is to reduce the privileges of the state sector," said Cheng.
Beijing Institute of Technology Economics Professor Hu Xingdou said the investigation is a rare opportunity to promote economic reform of China’s state-owned enterprises. China’s state-run companies have too much influence on China’s economy and are too big a source of corruption, he adds.
“Li Keqiang [China's Premier] can definitely use Jiang Jiemin's investigation to push forward the reform of the state owned companies and break up state run monopolies.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to crack down on high and low ranking corrupt officials. Some believe the investigation into Jiang is a sign that the anti-corruption drive is deepening and that other high-ranking officials could be next.
Jiang Jiemin sits on the Communist Party’s Central Committee, a top group of more than 200 officials. Jiang is the first on that committee to be investigated.
There has been speculation in recent days that former public security chief Zhou Yongkang could be the next official targeted given the direction of the current investigation. Zhou previously served as a CNPC official and was also an influential member of the so-called petroleum clique.