Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on telegram
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

Political Risk Watch: Decoding China’s Latest Anti-Organized Crime Campaign

◎ The new anti-organized crime campaign is likely aimed at sending a strong political signal and not merely addressing a common societal problem as in the earlier campaign.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and the State Council issued a document on Jan. 24 to launch a special campaign against organized crime.

The document called for a crackdown on “malevolent and corrupt forces” and the swatting of “flies at the grassroots” (the term “flies” refers to low-level officials who engage in corrupt activity). The document also called for the punishing of officials who put up “protective umbrellas” over mobsters and for the forming of “overwhelming momentum” against criminal organizations.

On the same day that the document was released, state mouthpiece Xinhua published an essay aimed at shaping favorable public opinion towards the campaign. The Xinhua piece raised several points:

  • Triads are turning away from “hard violence” to “soft violence” via coercion through non-violent means;
  • Local mafias have “corporatized”;
  • Gangs are moving away from infiltrating sand mining and construction jobs to the distribution and transportation industries;
  • Mobsters are establishing fintech lending platforms that charge usurious rates, and resort to “soft violence” tactics when carrying out debt collection.

The Xinhua article also touched on the change in official lexicon from “hitting black elements” to “sweeping black elements”:
1) The central authorities are placing unprecedented emphasis on the issue. Nearly 30 government departments will be involved in “sweeping black” as opposed to over 10 departments in the “hitting black” campaign.

2) The “hitting black” campaign of the past focused on cracking down on crime, while the emphasis on “sweeping black” is the strengthening of government at the grassroots and the clamping down on crime on a broader scale.

3) The earlier “hitting black” campaign placed too much emphasis on cracking down on gangs and not on preventing their formation.

Why it matters: The new anti-organized crime campaign is likely aimed at sending a strong political signal and not merely addressing a common societal problem as in the earlier campaign.

Our take: Xi Jinping is taking the fight to the Jiang Zemin faction at the grassroots. His campaign is likely aimed at addressing several problems which first arose during the Jiang era.

1. Local mafia colludes with governments at the grassroots, take bribes, and frequently repress the local populace. The problems created by organized crime has escalated over the years and now threatens the political stability of the CCP regime.

2. Through breaking up collusive networks between local governments and the mafia, Xi Jinping could win the support of the people and alleviate social problems. By shifting the focal point of social tensions, the people would feel that the lawbreaking officials, and not the CCP system, is to blame for their troubles.

3. The campaign gives Xi an excuse to clean out the domestic law and security apparatus of Jiang faction influence. In recent weeks, many Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC) officials were transferred to new positions in different regions, a move which prevents them from sheltering local mobs and facilitates the purge of gangsters.

4. The new National Supervisory Commission will have an opportunity to be put through its paces and accrue merit by supporting political reform via the anti-organized crime campaign.

5. With organized crime in retreat, the banking industry will be forced to shrink their support for usurious online lending platforms and restrict shadow banking activity, and instead, fund private enterprises that contribute to the real economy.

6. The underworld real estate business, which is built on illegally seizing land and demolishing buildings, will take a hit. Local governments will then be less likely to sell land to investors and developers at artificially low prices and indirectly prevent local debt from growing.

7. Confiscating mafia property and assets will replenish the state coffers and ease China’s financial and debt crisis.

8. Human rights activists could be arrested in the name of curbing gangsters. Without potential protest organizers, local governments will be able to guard against large-scale human rights incidents.

Is the latest campaign like Bo Xilai’s “Singing Red, Hitting Black” in Chongqing?

1. Bo’s campaign was aimed at eliminating dissenters to his rule, expanding his network of supporters, and accruing funds for use in a coup against the Xi leadership. Xi’s campaign appears to be aimed at pushing through reform and creating an opportunity to eliminate the remaining Jiang faction elements in the security and legal apparatus.

In other words, Bo’s “hitting black” serves to advance his coup goals while Xi’s “sweeping black” seeks to restore order and consolidate his authority.

2. Both Bo and Xi’s anti-organized crime campaigns reflect the CCP’s style of repression.

Bo’s campaign, however, is distinctly Maoist. Chongqing residents were encouraged to sing Cultural Revolution-era songs, and the campaign inspired radical leftist elements in society to attack reform-minded persons and the wealthy.

While the Xi leadership has tightened CCP control over society, it has also quietly downplayed the Cultural Revolution and suppressed radical Maoist leftists. For instance, the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution went uncelebrated, while the People’s Daily cautioned against repeating the “mistakes” of Mao’s revolution. The Xi administration is concerned that the Maoist radicals’ call for the poor to overthrow the wealthy would prove appealing in a society with a widening rich-poor gap.

3. As in all CCP campaigns, opportunists will seek to exploit the conditions created by the campaign to their benefit. Expect to see cases of local officials blackmailing legitimate enterprises, reappropriating private wealth, and improperly labeling innocents as criminals.

Search past entries by date
“The breadth of SinoInsider’s insights—from economics through the military to governance, all underpinned by unparalleled reporting on the people in charge—is stunning. In my over fifty years of in-depth reading on the PRC, unclassified and classified, SinoInsider is in a class all by itself.”
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Unique insights are available frequently from the reports of Sinoinsider.”
Michael Pillsbury, Senior Fellow for China Strategy, The Heritage Foundation
“Thank you for your information and analysis. Very useful.”
Prof. Ravni Thakur, University of Delhi, India
“SinoInsider’s research has helped me with investing in or getting out of Chinese companies.”
Charles Nelson, Managing Director, Murdock Capital Partners
“I value SinoInsider because of its always brilliant articles touching on, to name just a few, CCP history, current trends, and factional politics. Its concise and incisive analysis — absent the cliches that dominate China policy discussions in DC and U.S. corporate boardrooms — also represents a major contribution to the history of our era by clearly defining the threat the CCP poses to American peace and prosperity and global stability. I am grateful to SinoInsider — long may it thrive!”
Lee Smith, Author and journalist
“Your publication insights tremendously help us complete our regular analysis on in-depth issues of major importance. ”
Ms. Nicoleta Buracinschi, Embassy of Romania to the People’s Republic of China
"I’m a very happy, satisfied subscriber to your service and all the deep information it provides to increase our understanding. SinoInsider is profoundly helping to alter the public landscape when it comes to the PRC."
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Prof. Ming’s information about the Sino-U.S. trade war is invaluable for us in Taiwan’s technology industry. Our company basically acted on Prof. Ming’s predictions and enlarged our scale and enriched our product lines. That allowed us to deal capably with larger orders from China in 2019. ”
Mr. Chiu, Realtek R&D Center
“I am following China’s growing involvement in the Middle East, seeking to gain a better understanding of China itself and the impact of domestic constraints on its foreign policy. I have found SinoInsider quite helpful in expanding my knowledge and enriching my understanding of the issues at stake.”
Ehud Yaari, Lafer International Fellow, The Washington Institute
“SinoInsider’s research on the CCP examines every detail in great depth and is a very valuable reference. Foreign researchers will find SinoInsider’s research helpful in understanding what is really going on with the CCP and China. ”
Baterdene, Researcher, The National Institute for Security Studies (Mongolian)
“The forecasts of Prof. Chu-cheng Ming and the SinoInsider team are an invaluable resource in guiding our news reporting direction and anticipating the next moves of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.”
Chan Miu-ling, Radio Television Hong Kong China Team Deputy Leader
“SinoInsider always publishes interesting and provocative work on Chinese elite politics. It is very worthwhile to follow the work of SinoInsider to get their take on factional struggles in particular.”
Lee Jones, Reader in International Politics, Queen Mary University of London
“[SinoInsider has] been very useful in my class on American foreign policy because it contradicts the widely accepted argument that the U.S. should work cooperatively with China. And the whole point of the course is to expose students to conflicting approaches to contemporary major problems.”
Roy Licklider, Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
“As a China-based journalist, SinoInsider is to me a very reliable source of information to understand deeply how the CCP works and learn more about the factional struggle and challenges that Xi Jinping may face. ”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“SinoInsider offers an interesting perspective on the Sino-U.S. trade war and North Korea. Their predictions are often accurate, which is definitely very helpful.”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“I have found SinoInsider to provide much greater depth and breadth of coverage with regard to developments in China. The subtlety of the descriptions of China's policy/political processes is absent from traditional media channels.”
John Lipsky, Peter G. Peterson Distinguished Scholar, Kissinger Center for Global Affairs
“My teaching at Cambridge and policy analysis for the UK audience have been informed by insights from your analyzes. ”
Dr Kun-Chin Lin, University Lecturer in Politics,
Deputy Director of the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge University
" SinoInsider's in-depth and nuanced analysis of Party dynamics is an excellent template to train future Sinologists with a clear understanding that what happens in the Party matters."
Stephen Nagy, Senior Associate Professor, International Christian University
“ I find Sinoinsider particularly helpful in instructing students about the complexities of Chinese politics and what elite competition means for the future of the US-China relationship.”
Howard Sanborn, Professor, Virginia Military Institute
“SinoInsider has been one of my most useful (and enjoyable) resources”
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Professor Ming and his team’s analyses of current affairs are very far-sighted and directionally accurate. In the present media environment where it is harder to distinguish between real and fake information, SinoInsider’s professional perspectives are much needed to make sense of a perilous and unpredictable world. ”
Liu Cheng-chuan, Professor Emeritus, National Chiayi University