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Analysts say China's anti-graft drive should go beyond Zhou probe

The investigation involving former prominent Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang may have won over public opinion, but analysts said the move means little if more is not done to solve corruption people face in their everyday lives.

SHANGHAI: The investigation involving former prominent Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang may have won over public opinion for the anti-corruption drive under President Xi Jinping. But analysts said the move means little if more is not done to solve corruption people face in their everyday lives.

Zhou is the highest-ranking leader ever to be put under investigation by China's Communist Party, since it came into power in 1949.

The move, seen as bold and unprecedented, also marked a climax in a sweeping nation-wide corruption crackdown. Hundreds of officials have been purged for graft since the current leadership after Xi took power.

Most people in China and netizens cheered the news, but analysts said Zhou's case will be a difficult one to handle.

Zhang Lifan, historian and independent political commentator, said: "There are several dilemmas regarding Zhou Yongkang's case, such as whether Zhou will cooperate with the investigation, and whether his case will be used to nab more ‘tigers’, and if his case will become a political one."

Zhou's power extends into three major realms - the petroleum industry, public security and China's Sichuan province. Key leaders in those areas, with strong links to Zhou, have since been removed from their posts in the past months.

Analysts said Zhou's downfall will win medium-term public support for the government, since it proves Xi means business in taking down corrupt officials. But in the long-term, it is corruption in society that the public wants to see corrected.

Assistant Professor Li Hui from School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University said: "Doctors in hospitals, secondary school and university teachers, so-called corruption in academics… Every sector is lacking a system of strict specification on the profession and the education of ethics. The corruption in these (sectors) has greater impact for the public. They see people do it in their daily lives. Corruption is a serious problem in society."

Besides the political cases, high-profile corporate corruption exposed so far include drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, which is accused of bribing doctors to use their medicine, as well as television executives at state broadcaster CCTV accepting personal payments from advertisers.

Observers also do not rule out a power struggle behind the investigations as there are rumours that Zhou had wanted to retain influence of the party when Xi took power.

Authorities have yet to make public the violations Zhou committed. But there is speculation that he is likely to face charges of corruption made during his time in the oil sector, which is expected to run into billions of yuan, and abuse of power when he served as China's chief of security.  

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