Rather, a state-sponsored documentary series designed to bolster support for China’s decades-long crackdown on corruption has caused a rare outburst of public criticism of one of President Xi Jinping’s key policies.
Xi, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, launched a comprehensive counter-vaccination campaign in 2013 in response to the rampant and systematic corruption that undermined the Communist Party’s grip on power.
The effort led to the detention of tens of thousands of officials, including senior national leaders such as Zhou YongkangChina’s former security chief, and Ling Jihuaa top assistant to former president Hu Jintao.
The repression was also interpreted as part of Xi’s plans to exterminate his political opponents.
China Central Television, a state-owned broadcaster, began broadcasting this month Zero Tolerancea five-part series containing rich details on abuse of power and explosive interviews with convicted Chinese Communist Party officials.
On the eve of the first episode of the series, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s top body against corruption, said Zero Tolerance was intended to reflect the “uninterrupted efforts” to continue the counter-vaccine struggle and “systematically achieve the strategic goal of not enabling officials and being willing to become corrupt”.
Previous anti-vaccination documentaries have focused on the amount of money stolen by officials. But no one has gone as far as Zero Tolerance to reveal how corrupt activities took place and sometimes continued despite ongoing investigations.
In one case, it was alleged that private companies made “unreasonably high payments” to the brother of Zhou Jiangyong, the former party secretary in Hangzhou, an eastern city that is home to Jack Ma’s Ant Group, the fintech company.
The program Ant involved in the corruption scandal, claiming that the payments were made in exchange for policy support and cheap land. The company was not named, but an Ant Unit was the only external corporate investor in one of the businesses, according to public records, and was among three corporate investors in another.
Zhou was detained and the CCDI said he had been expelled from the Communist Party this week for “disorderly expansion of capital”.
The Financial Times could not reach the Zhou brothers for comment.
Ant did not respond to a request for comment.
But Chinese social media has been inundated with dismissive reviews and criticism that Xi’s anti-vaccination campaign did not serve its purpose.
“The cost of committing crimes is too low and the appeal too high,” said one user on Weibo, the microblogging platform.
“[Sun Lijun] smiled as he described his crime, ”said another popular post, referring to the former deputy minister of public safety who was arrested two years ago for corruption. “Does he regret what he did?”
China has a tradition of forcing corrupt officials to confess their crimes on live television, but Zero Tolerance has led many viewers to see the political system as the root cause of the problem.
Chen Gang, the former deputy mayor of Beijing, was shown in the program that he rudely accepted bribes in the mid-2010s, despite being aware of investigations into his activities. Last year, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Chen’s story, many viewers said, reflects the party’s failure. “There was a systemic tolerance of his misdeeds until someone higher up decided he should be punished,” said John Sun, a Beijing-based journalist.
Shaomin Li, a China expert at Old Dominion University in Virginia, says Zero Tolerance highlighted the contradictions in China’s political system. “The program tells officials to rely on the party, not on personal relationships. “The fact that Xi Jinping promotes people who have close relationships with him, or shows him personal loyalty, tells them otherwise,” he said.
The execution in January last year of Lai Xiaominthe former president of the state-run financial group Huarong, on corruption charges shocked Chinese bureaucrats, but the broader tendency was for officials who received life sentences or suspended death sentences to be released within 20 years.
Many Chinese were also furious about the punishment handed out to corrupt officials appearing in the documentary, which they said undermined the claim to zero tolerance.
The program outlined the allegations against Zhao Yonglian, former head of the poverty alleviation office in the northwestern province of Yongdeng, which showed that he withdrew bribes from more than a dozen state subsidy applicants – among the country’s poorest – before 42 months sentenced. prison.
The punishment, many viewers said, was too weak. “The anti-vaccination law is too lenient, corrupt officials have no fear of it,” said one Weibo user.
Others saw the interrogators in Zero Tolerance as indifferent. The convicted former officials in the documentary give keynote speeches and recall their past experiences.
“They do not look like criminals, they look like losers in a business battle,” said David Yao, a software engineer in Shanghai.
Analysts said the negative reaction to Zero Tolerance suggests that the decade-long campaign has not sealed the public’s confidence in the party’s ability to investigate itself for graft, which remains widespread.
“Despite our zero-tolerance policy against corruption, the problem is still widespread,” said He Jiahong, a law professor at Renmin University in Beijing.
Analysts added that the series also highlighted China’s lack of control and balance, a function of its absence from an independent media and legal system.
“Being caught does not mean you are more corrupt than others,” said a former official of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the highest government agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal cases. “It just means you have bad luck.”
Additional Reporting by Edward White in Seoul