China to target self-styled financial elites with ‘extravagant’ lifestyles in anti-corruption campaign

China to target self-styled financial elites with ‘extravagant’ lifestyles in anti-corruption campaign

24 Feb 2023 ( SCMP )

  • Any claim that senior officials and executives are exempt from party edicts urging them to lead a simple life should be rejected, article says
  • Watchdog vows to target state enterprise leaders who falter in their obedience to central authorities

China’s corruption watchdog has vowed to escalate its anti-graft campaign against misconduct, including cracking down on executives who see themselves as financial elites and have “extravagant” lifestyles.

According to a new article penned by Chinese officials, graft investigators and prosecutors should “deepen” their understanding of misbehaviour in the financial sector and state enterprises as well as their associated industries by “sternly rejecting” any claim that senior officials or executives are elites exempt from party edicts urging them to lead a simple life.

The article was written by a department in charge of investigations under the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s top watchdog.

“[We should] reject any wrong theories such as [these executives] should be exempted, that they are special, superior, or they are not relevant [to politics] or such practices are required by their industries,” said the article published on the National Supervisory Commission website on Thursday.

“We should also dismiss wrong theories about financial elites, that only money matters and that we should align with the West. We should clamp down on hedonism and extravagance, such as the excessive pursuit of elegance and sophistication.”

The warning comes amid China’s ongoing campaign against senior officials in the financial sector. A multitude of senior officials and executives from banks and financial institutions, and across central and local levels, have been probed.

It also comes on the heels of months of “rectifications” and crackdowns on private enterprises, the tech and entertainment industries and education firms.

The watchdog said it would now target state enterprise leaders who “sway” in their obedience to central authorities.

“We should look at discipline violations in the areas of financial sectors and central-level state enterprises with the lens of politics to discern and identify the political roots and risks behind the violations at the surface,” it said.

It also pledged to investigate financial regulators deemed negligent or insufficiently stringent in preventing financial risks.

The article reiterated that the graft watchdog and prosecutors are responsible for protecting the authority and the centralisation of power in the Communist Party led by Chinese President Xi Jinping. It underscored the importance of investigators uncovering collusion between officials and businesses to build their own power circles.

Many waves of anti-corruption campaigns have been launched against different sectors – including in the military, government and businesses – since Xi became party secretary in 2012.

The party congress in October ushered in a third term for Xi as party secretary, a move that departed from the unwritten norm of his predecessors. In January, Xi chaired a meeting of the newly elected top anti-corruption body and vowed to continue the crackdown on graft, and penalise local officials failing to execute the order by the central authorities.

Cadres squandering money in their work and private lives has become a key subject of scrutiny since 2012 after the Politburo endorsed an “eight-point decision on improving party and government conduct”.