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Xi Jinping takes risky path in disposal of ‘tiger’ Zhou Yongkang

Xi Jinping takes risky path in disposal of ‘tiger’ Zhou Yongkang

Ever since China’s new leader Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption drive 20 months ago, most observers have been wondering how far and high would he go.自中国新任领导人习近平在20个月前发起反腐运动以来,大多数观察家都想知道,这场运动会波及多大范围,最高能触及哪个级别。

Now we have the answer. On Tuesday, the Chinese Communist party announced that Zhou Yongkang, the former Politburo Standing Committee member and internal security chief, has been formally placed under investigation for serious corruption. Although Mr Zhou was reportedly detained in December, it remained unclear until this week whether Mr Xi would initiate formal disciplinary proceedings against him. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the Chinese leadership has observed an unwritten rule: incumbent or retired members of the Politburo Standing Committee are untouchable.如今,答案终于揭晓。周二,中共宣布前中央政治局常委、国内安全事务主管周永康因严重贪腐被正式立案审查。虽然有报道称,周永康去年12月就已被羁押,但直到本周之前,人们始终不清楚习近平是否会对他启动正式纪检程序。自1976年文化大革命(Cultural Revolution)结束以来,中国领导层一直奉行一条不成文规矩:现任或已退休中央政治局常委是不能动的。

By ensnaring a senior official of Mr Zhou’s standing, Mr Xi apparently seeks to accomplish several objectives. To the Chinese people, Mr Xi hopes to offer reassurance that he is working hard to cleanse the rot inside the party. To his rivals, the downfall of Mr Zhou sends a clear warning: jail awaits those daring to challenge my authority (Mr Zhou is an ally of the now-disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai, Mr Xi’s adversary during the leadership transition). To everyone else, Mr Xi shows that he is now unquestionably the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping.通过清理周永康这个级别的高官,习近平看上去是希望一箭三雕。对于中国人民,习近平希望能让他们确信,他正在努力清除党内腐败。对于他的对手,周永康的倒台传递出明确的警示信号:敢于挑战我的权威的人们,等待你们的是牢狱之灾(周永康是已身败名裂的前政治局委员、习近平接班的对手薄熙来的盟友)。对于所有其他人,习近平通过此事显示出,他已毫无争议地成为邓小平之后拥有最大权力的中国领导人。

There is little doubt that most Chinese people will cheer Mr Xi’s latest triumph in his “tiger-hunt” (corrupt senior officials are called “tigers” in China). The alleged corruption of Mr Zhou’s family members and cronies is shocking even by Chinese standards. One of Mr Zhou’s sons allegedly amassed a fortune worth at least Rmb1bn ($160m) and is said to have done business with a mining tycoon recently convicted of murder and organised crime. Caging a “tiger” of Mr Zhou’s size can indeed assuage a great deal of public anger.毫无疑问,习近平“打虎运动”(中国把腐败高官称为“老虎”)的最新进展会让多数中国人欢欣鼓舞。即使以中国的标准来看,周永康家族成员及其党羽涉嫌的贪腐行为都触目惊心。他的一个儿子涉嫌聚敛的财富起码价值10亿元(合1.6亿美元),据说还曾与一位最近被控谋杀和有组织犯罪的矿业大亨合伙做过生意。把周永康这个级别的“老虎”关进笼子,无疑能大大缓解民愤。

But it is less clear whether China’s ruling elites are in celebratory mood. Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign may have earned him enormous popularity, but it has also made life much less pleasant for Chinese officials accustomed to perks and privileges. As part of his campaign, Mr Xi’s austerity measures have kept many Chinese officials out of luxury hotels and fancy restaurants and deterred them from accepting expensive gifts.不过,目前不那么清楚的是,中国统治阶层精英是否同样感到振奋。反腐运动也许会为习近平带来巨大人气,但对于那些习惯了津贴和特权的中国官员来说,这场运动却让他们的日子不那么好过了。习近平的倡廉举措已令许多中国官员远离豪华酒店和高级饭馆,也不再有胆量收受昂贵礼品。

Even more unbearable is the sense of insecurity and fear that has pervaded the Chinese officialdom. Because practices such as giving cash gifts to gain official appointments and promotions and helping private businessmen secure contracts are widespread inside the party, a very large number of Chinese officials dread being hauled in for investigation or worse. The Chinese media has already noted a recent rise in the number of officials who have committed suicide.更让他们难以忍受的,是弥漫在中国官场的那种不安全感和恐惧感。在中共党内,通过贿赂得到官职和晋升、商人行贿官员赢得合同的行为十分普遍,大批中国官员深恐成为调查目标或面对更糟糕的结局。中国已有媒体指出,最近官员自杀人数呈上升趋势。

With the fall of Mr Zhou, Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign is entering a more delicate phase.随着周永康的倒台,习近平的反腐运动进入了一个更加微妙的阶段。

The most important decision awaiting Mr Xi is when and how to bring his anti-corruption drive to a soft landing. To date his campaign has claimed 36 senior officials with the rank of minister or provincial governor, and thousands of minions. While the benefits of gaining public support and political authority are obvious, the risks are considerable. By airing the party’s dirty laundry in public, Mr Xi has, perhaps unavoidably, exposed the rot and schisms inside the CCP. Instead of boosting popular confidence in his ability to save the regime, the daily media revelations of looting and debauchery inside the government may achieve the opposite effect of making ordinary people lose faith.他眼下需要做出的一个最重要决定,就是何时、以何种方式将反腐运动导向“软着陆”。迄今为止,这场运动已经让36名省部级高官和数千名级别更低的官员落马。尽管获得民众支持和树立政治权威的作用非常明显,其中的风险也是巨大的。在公开“家丑”的过程中,习近平几乎是不可避免地暴露了中共内部的腐朽和分歧。媒体每天都在曝光更多官员的巧取豪夺和纵情声色,非但不能让公众对中共政权更有信心,反而可能导致人们对习近平挽救这个政权的能力丧失信心。

Far more dangerous is the split that is now likely to emerge inside the party. Mr Xi’s campaign has engendered an unprecedented degree of fear among Chinese officials. In politics, fear is a unifying force. If many of Mr Xi’s colleagues and rivals believe that they could be the next tigers to fall, their survival instinct might motivate them to challenge Mr Xi’s authority. The unity of leadership that has held the party together since Tiananmen could evaporate.一个更加危险的问题,是中共内部很可能会出现分裂。习近平的反腐运动已经在中国官员中引发了史无前例的恐惧感。在政治上,恐惧是一种力量,能让人团结起来。如果习近平的众多同僚和对手确信他们可能会成为下一个被打掉的老虎,他们的生存本能可能会促使他们挑战习近平的权威。天安门事件以来,最高领导层的团结将中共凝聚在一起,这种团结可能行将瓦解。

Properly disposing of a captured tiger is no easy task. Under Chinese law, Mr Zhou will have to be tried in a court. Based on media revelations, it will be a tough challenge for the prosecutors to tie Mr Zhou directly to the acts committed by his family members and cronies. But for Mr Xi, trying and convicting Mr Zhou in a legal proceeding that meets the minimum standard of openness and fairness is a political necessity. Anything less would fuel speculation about the real reason for his downfall.如何妥善处理一头已经被俘的老虎,也不是一件易事。依照中国法律,周永康应当接受法庭审判。基于媒体目前曝光的信息,要把周永康与其家族成员和党羽的所作所为直接联系在一起,对检方而言是个很大的挑战。然而对于习近平来说,依法审判周永康并将其定罪在政治上极有必要,而且这个法律程序在开放性和公正性上都需要满足最低标准,其中哪一个环节的缺失都会引发对周永康倒台真实原因的猜测。

The hunt for Zhou the mega-tiger may be over. But the political drama in Beijing is not.对大老虎周永康的捕猎也许已经结束,但北京的政治大戏却远未终止。

The writer is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, US本文作者是美国加利福尼亚州克莱蒙特麦肯纳学院(Claremont McKenna College)政府学教授


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