The fierce anti-graft campaign recently launched by China's new leaders is extending deeper into the country's economic activities as the top anti-graft watchdog has announced the investigation of Jiang Jiemin, chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervisi
The Communist Party’s discipline inspection commission announced on its website on Sunday that Jiang was being investigated for “serious discipline violations”.
Jiang was elected as a member of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in November last year and nominated as the head of the ministerial-level state assets regulator in March. The investigation makes him the first member of the 18th CPC Central Committee to be investigated and the first chairman of the regulatory body to face such a probe since the Assets Supervision and Administration Commission was established a decade ago.
Jiang was also chairman of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China’s leading oil producer, for years before he was promoted to head the commission. Thus the announcement that he is to be investigated – which came just days after the anti-graft watchdog announced investigations of four of CNPC’s top executives – has been interpreted as the wielding of the anti-corruption sword over the state-owned colossus.
China’s state-owned enterprises have played an essential role in promoting and facilitating the country’s rapid economic and social development over the past few decades. However, the lack of effective oversight has also created space for corruption. Liu Zhijun, the former minister of railways, was sentenced to a suspended death penalty in July for bribery and abuse of power.
The overwhelming monopoly of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in key areas, such as oil, telecommunications and railways, has also been denounced as causing low efficiency and blocking the entry of the vibrant private sector. Some of the SOEs have been heavily criticised for suffering enormous financial losses due to their lack of feasible and well-conceived plans for overseas acquisitions and expansion.
For example, due to its ambitious overseas expansion strategy, CNPC has expanded its business rapidly in recent years, but some of its overseas activities were never likely to be profitable. The oil giant has also been the focus of public criticism for its monopoly of the domestic oil market and the losses made by shareholding investors.
There is now serious public discontent at how the SOEs are being run.
President Xi Jinping has vowed that the anti-corruption campaign will include both “tigers” and “flies”, and Jiang’s investigation should be the start of the country’s steps to put hundreds of its SOEs under tight scrutiny and ferret out more corrupt SOE executives.