Xu Lixiang 徐理响
in CASS Journal of Political Science 政治学研究, 2014, Issue 01, pp.13-23
Reviewed by Bhim B Subba (PhD Candidate, University of Delhi)
After Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), a discipline and corruption watchdog of the CCP, has been the most ‘dreaded’ party institution. Under its auspices, scores of corrupt cadres from central to local levels have been expelled for party indiscipline, that is, corruption and embezzlement. It has not only investigated high-ranking party leaders but also ‘brought down’ members of the PLA who were subsequently arrested after their expulsion. This anti-corruption campaign has given the party an opportunity to re-invent itself through a cleansing of ills that consistently plagued all the organs of the Leninist party.
As the title suggests, this article looks into the institution of the CCP’s discipline inspection system. Xu Lixiang argues that the CCDI is one of the government’s most important control mechanisms. Citing the party’s historical trajectory, he analyzes the development and functions of the CCDI that have not only checked party indiscipline, but also helped party building in the long run by strengthening autonomy and defending party leadership whenever required. The CCDI ensures party line in formulation and implementation of policies and future political development of the party state.
Apart from the CCDI’s relative success of maintaining party work, honest government, and checking and fighting corruption, the author points out that the system is confronted with challenges as well, such as functional independence, autonomy and societal expectations. Besides, the recent anti-corruption reforms have expanded the power of the CCDI in both party and governance without clear demarcation leading to an overlap of functions amongst the supervision of the party, judicial and administrative organs. To be precise, the current anti-corruption campaign seems to be akin to the CCDI, and one of its only functions. But ‘political discipline’ comes first and is the most important objective of the party. The author also alludes that ‘party discipline’ is necessary for defending the party’s unity of thought and organization. This is the bedrock of the Leninist party system which subscribes to the ‘centralization of power’ through ‘democratic centralism.’
For reforms and improvement of the CCDI, Xu makes suggestions regarding its composition, power structure and jurisdiction. He also adds that a lack of autonomy has often created deadlock in an otherwise smoothly functioning system. The ‘dual’ power of supervision and disciplinary inspection often has led to policy paralysis among the leadership due to policy failure and subsequent investigations. The overconcentration of power in a single party organ has become a tool of fulfilling political vendettas in both purging and expulsion, thereby creating a hindrance to ‘inner-party’ democracy. Thus, he suggests collective responsibility should be made among the cadres from the grassroots to the top, and any conflicts among party organs and functionaries be dealt with according to rule of law.
Xu is ‘suggestive’ and ‘policy’ oriented. However, this does not mean un-academic. The article is a valuable piece for students of Chinese politics to understand the dynamics of China’s so-called ‘big-brother.’ It gives readers insight into holistic reforms needed for the CCDI’s greater efficacy through functional independence, party building and development of political institutions.