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Asia

Sieren's China: Behind closed doors

Party discipline is top of the agenda at the Sixth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. But this will be hard to tighten without more transparency and clear rules, says DW's Frank Sieren.

There were plenty of rumors ahead of the meeting of senior Communist Party members and officials. The talk focused on whether in future they will have to disclose more of their assets and possible reshuffles, especially considering the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the country's most important political organ, will be re-elected next year.

Who might President Xi Jinping promote or demote? Will the rules on when a Politburo member can retire be liberalized? Who knows?

Only the fight against corruption can be taken stock of at this point.

A state of paralysis

The anti-corruption campaign that the president launched over three years ago has not yet reached its pinnacle. In the past few months, over 50 senior officials with the rank of minister or governor have been arrested.

About half of those in jail have been sentenced in court, but there are still over 700 ongoing cases.

Frank Sieren *PROVISORISCH* (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Tirl)

DW's Frank Sieren

The problem is that the accused cannot count on a procedure in accordance with the rule of law. Therefore, those who have not been caught and even those who have done nothing wrong have entered a self-induced state of paralysis.

Even the state "Global Times" newspaper has branded this flip-side of the campaign as "passive resistance" - in the sense that nobody currently dares decide anything in their ministry or province for fear of making a mistake. The anti-corruption pills have unforeseen side effects.

Of course, this does not mean that there is an amnesty in sight, as some would like, à la "I got lucky because I wasn't caught". But the fear created by the lack of transparency was calculated. It is not a mistake but a part of the program, best summed up by the idiom, "Kill the chicken to scare the monkey" and thus part and parcel of Chinese culture. 

Doing nothing will be punished

Nobody knows the rules according to which arrests, accusations and sentences are being decided. And because everyone has skeletons in the closet, they would all prefer to let sleeping dogs lie

Therefore, nothing more is being decided. And this lack of decision and action - and this is a new development - could in future also be punished. The game rules will be made clearer, but the reins will not be slackened. Nobody who so far has gone unnoticed by Beijing, whether in a positive or negative sense, should be allowed to feel lulled into a false sense of security.

This phenomenon will not disappear so long as there is no rule of law. Lack of transparency calls for more severity. However, this can no longer be so arbitrary.

President Xi is not likely to let loose for a while to come.

Frank Sieren has lived in Beijing for over 20 years.

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