Guangdong chief Li Xi set to be China’s new anti-corruption czar

Mr Li Xi appeared to be the highest ranking member on a list of 133 members of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. PHOTO: MCI

BEIJING - Guangdong province party chief Li Xi looks set to be the next head of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) disciplinary inspection body, based on a list of its new members released on Saturday.

Mr Li, 66, appears to be the highest-ranking among the 133 members of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), a position that also guarantees him a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), China’s apex governing body.

The position of CCDI chief is ranked sixth in the PSC. 

A native of north-west China’s Gansu, Mr Li spent most of his early career in the province before moving to Shaanxi province in 2004. He later spent four years in Shanghai and three years in Liaoning province before becoming party chief of Guangdong, an economic powerhouse.

Mr Li is believed to have close ties to President Xi Jinping.  He used to be a former assistant to Mr Li Ziqi, a former Gansu party secretary who was close to Mr Xi’s father Xi Zhongxun. It was through this connection that Mr Li Xi eventually became a close confidant of President Xi. While Mr Li was party chief in Liaoning, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Mr Xi’s call for stricter enforcement of party discipline.

Also on the CCDI list was a Mr Wang Yang. While the name appears to be the same as retiring PSC member Wang Yang, the man is in fact secretary of Qinghai province’s anti-corruption body.

The powerful CCDI, ostensibly in charge of party discipline, also serves as China’s anti-graft body. Since President Xi came to power a decade ago, he has made fighting corruption a hallmark of his term, cleaning up what he felt was a culture of privilege among officials.

But critics said the campaign was also used to take down powerful rivals, including former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, who was jailed for life in 2013 for corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Members of the CCDI, along with the CPC Central Committee, were picked by party cadres in elections on Saturday.

Members of the PSC will be unveiled on Sunday after the first plenary meeting of the new Central Committee, where President Xi is all but certain to receive a third term as general secretary, making him head of the party and, by extension, of the government.

The Central Committee comprises 205 full members and 171 alternate members. The full members will elect the 25-member Politburo, the PSC, the general secretary, the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission and chief of the CCDI.

The elections come at the end of a week-long party congress which saw about 2,300 party cadres from all over China gather at the Great Hall of The People in Beijing.

Held mostly behind closed doors, the meetings were meant to elect the party’s next slate of leaders, as well as to set the agenda for the next five years.

On Saturday, the party congress voted to pass a resolution on CCDI’s work report from the past five years, acknowledging that the commission members have “faithfully performed their duties as prescribed by the party constitution”.

“(They have) remained committed to improving party conduct, promoting integrity, and combating corruption, and have advanced high-quality development of discipline inspection and supervision in the new era,” said the resolution that was read out during the closing ceremony of the congress.

During the presentation of this year’s report to the CPC congress, Mr Xi repeatedly emphasised security, saying that China is at a crossroad facing challenges unseen in a century, and calling for “high-quality development” to create a “modern socialist nation”.

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