Xi Jinping to go after ‘ants and flies’ as he intensifies his crackdown on firms

By Juliana Liu and Wayne Chang, CNN

Hong Kong/Taipei (CNN) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping has vowed to go after “flies and ants” as part of an intensifying anti-corruption campaign that will target industries such as finance, energy and infrastructure.

China will tackle “hidden risks” and increase the punishment for people who offer bribes, Xi was quoted as saying at a Monday meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), its top anti-graft body, state media reported.

“While there had been an overwhelming victory in the decade-long anti-corruption push, the situation remains complex,” Xi said. “In the face of such [a] complex situation, there can be no stopping, slacking or compromising on anti-corruption.”

We will “deepen the rectification of corruption in power-concentrated, capital- intensive and resource-rich sectors,” he said. The party will “punish the ‘corruption of flies and ants’ to give the masses a greater sense of gain,” he added.

Since Xi assumed power in 2012, he has been going after both “tigers,” high ranking officials, as well as “flies,” lower level cadres. The reference to flies and ants refers to corruption by small players or smaller-scale corruption that is easier to conceal.

The campaign, which is Xi’s signature project, has swept across the ruling Communist Party, the government, the military and state-owned companies in waves. Now its focus will be on state-owned enterprises, including the pharmaceutical sector.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, says the message is that the crackdown won’t be ending anytime soon.

“(Xi) mentions some urgent issues such as very deep corruption in the the economy. It’s for an internal audience, to make sure people know that the anti-corruption campaign is the top priority,” he said.

The Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, is grappling with a structural slowdown marked by weak demand, rising unemployment and battered business confidence. Xi acknowledged some of those challenges in a recent New Year’s Eve speech.

His CCDI remarks come after nine military figures were ousted from the country’s rubber-stamp legislature in December, and the latest shake-ups suggest that his anti-corruption campaign is far from over within the military.

And just this week, another former top business leader of a major state-owned business — Tang Shuangning, the ex-chairman and party chief of the China Everbright Group — was ousted from the party.

The CCDI accused him of “abandoning his duties,” failing to act in diffusing financial risks and taking bribes. Tang’s suspected crimes will be referred to prosecutors for further review and potential prosecution, it said.

Over 2023, the commission investigated more than a dozen senior executives at the country’s most powerful financial institutions, according to previous CNN analysis of statements posted on the CCDI’s website.

They included big names at the very top of China’s financial system, such as Liu Liange, former chairman of state-owned Bank of China, and Wang Bin, former head of state-owned China Life Insurance.

— CNN’s Shawn Deng contributed reporting

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