17 January 2019

The Big Picture: ZHOU YONGKANG

Beijing will continue to step up the anti-graft fight while deepening the nation’s economic reforms, state media reported Thursday, citing the research department of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The party will identify corruption issues and handle them immediately, preventing small problems from growing bigger, Xinhua news agency reported. Regardless of the seniority, the party will take action against corrupt officials to show its determination in combating graft, it said. 

The comments echo a call made on Jan. 14 by Party chief Xi Jinping {習近平} during the third plenary session of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

It is probably a curtain-raiser for an announcement on the corruption probe on Zhou Yongkang {周永康}, former standing member of the CPC Central Committee’s politburo and secretary of Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, according to some China political watchers.

The CPC is expected to announce details about the Zhou case on Feb. 11, New York-based reported on Tuesday. On Jan. 29, the party had given a briefing to senior officials internally about the investigation into the Zhou case, the South China Morning Post reported earlier.

Zhou, who was China’s internal security tsar when he retired in November 2012, is the most senior official to be ensnared in the nation’s anti-graft fight. The once-powerful ‘tiger’, or high-ranking official, is said to have been placed under virtual house arrest late last year amid an investigation.

It is hard to predict when an official announcement will be made, but even if it comes within this month, it will not affect the two key political sessions — the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — in early March, said Johnny Lau, an expert on Chinese matters. The accusation on Zhou is likely to focus on his corruption problems, rather than political ones, Lau said.

The case should have been announced over the last two months but the sudden move of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to arrest and execute his uncle Jang Song Thaek in early December disrupted Beijing’s timetable, Lau said. 

It will be interesting to see whether a Chinese court will provide transcripts of the proceedings on weibo, or microblog, when Zhou goes to trial, in line with the practice that was seen at the trial of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai {薄熙來} last year, Willy Lam, a Hong Kong-based expert on Chinese political affairs, told EJ Insight. Also, people will be watching whether Zhou will defend himself vigorously like Bo and disclose more inside information, Lam said. 

No matter how the “show” goes, Xi is likely to benefit from it as he can show to the public that he has made some achievements in his anti-corruption fight by conquering a “big tiger”, Lam said. 

China January CPI seen up 2.3% at most

China’s consumer price index (CPI) likely rose no more than 2.3 percent in January from a year earlier as warm winter and falling meat prices helped ease seasonal pressure, the China Securities Journal reported Friday, citing institutional estimates. Bank of Communications (03328.HK, 601328.CN) put CPI growth at 2.2 percent, lower than a 2.5 percent forecast in the first quarter. China Galaxy Securities (06881.HK) said CPI probably grew 2.1 percent last month as rents and energy prices rose. Meanwhile, Everbright Securities (601788.CN) said the economy is showing deflationary pressure in terms of producer prices and cut its 2014 CPI growth estimate to 2.7 percent from 3 percent.

–Contact HKEJ at [email protected]



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