China's leaders serious about rooting out corruption in party

CHINA - With 16 vice-ministerial or higher level government officials placed under investigation for abuse of power in the past year and no sign of such momentum subsiding, no one can doubt China's top leadership's resolve to tackle corruption.

With the recent publication of the latest auditing report, which listed the abuse of power by central government departments and state-owned enterprises, it is not difficult to get the impression that the top authorities are fighting an all-out war against corruption, with a view to making it risky, if not impossible, for officials to abuse the power they have.

At the end of last month, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee adopted a programme to reform the party's discipline inspection mechanism, and five provinces and three central government departments have been designated as pilot units for reform trials.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC has also been drafting rules for dispatching discipline inspection teams to both central government departments and institutions of the CPC Central Committee.

It is obvious that a supervisory mechanism of the party's disciplinary watchdog is being formed - it will hopefully manage in a unified manner all the discipline inspection teams sent to government departments and party institutions.

The message is that the top leadership does not want to just sweep the surface - it wants to dig deeper to uncover and remove the roots of corruption.

The disciplinary inspection teams or groups stationed in various departments but directly under the leadership of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection will ideally become part of the permanent anti-graft mechanism.

This will not only have a deterrent effect, but it will also mean the teams will exercise the right of supervision over the leadership of a department.

In the past, the anti-graft campaign was always accused of being able to deal with only the symptoms of corruption, without ever being able to dig out the roots of abuse of power.

The fact that some ministerial-level officials did not have any idea they were under investigation until they were told suggests that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is becoming increasingly competent in fulfilling its mission as the party watchdog.

The formation of a permanent top-to-bottom anti-graft mechanism points to the importance the top leadership attaches to clearing up the soil in which corruption grows.