Broken Power Lines in Nanjing: Ji Jianye and the case of Regional Corruption

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Certificate Candidate at SAIS Nanjing

Lacking free press, China’s rumor mill surfaces salient information from time to time. A professor recently relayed to me that China’s Communist Party (CCP) had charged, Ji Jiayne, Nanjing’s disgraced Mayor, with corruption and embezzlement. Ji (nicknamed “Mayor Bulldozer”), who was mayor of Nanjing from 2010 to 2013, remains in party custody at this time. As of October 19th, 2013, the mayor had been removed from his post.

More rumors have bubbled up to the surface since Ji’s arrest. Other aspects of his character and career have begun to emerge in the news, the WeiBo social media platform, and the Chinese blogosphere. New allegations include a charge that Ji plagiarized his PhD dissertation.

City funding tied up in Ji Jianye’s case includes 20 million RenMinBi (approximately $3.3 million). Ji’s infrastructural expenditures evoke pork-barrel spending. Everyday in Nanjing’s streets construction equipment buzzes as streets are fenced off for subway construction or beautification projects. Allegations related to these large-scale renovations are said to be contracted to a cluster of companies; the former mayor is suspected of enjoying financial kickbacks in exchange for the sought-after construction contracts.

While the moves concerning Ji and his removal from office coincide with attitudes of Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping’s toughening stance on corruption, the investigation of corrupt regional officials speaks to the changing nature of power in China. First, corruption investigations maintain distinct Chinese characteristics. At the center of these investigations, the Chinese Communist Party still holds the power to indict, interrogate, investigate, prosecute and condemn corrupt city officials. Any wrongdoing on the part of officials reflects not only infractions against their cities’ citizens but also against the party they represent.

The question remains: are regional officials punished more for embezzlement, corruption and miscarriages of justice against their cities or against their fellow communist party leaders? How the Party decides on punishments is withheld the general public. Furthermore, all disciplinary action and knowledge of such action is limited to the walls of the CCP offices.

It remains an open question in terms of feasibility whether the CCP is able to manage its officials’ crooked practices using only in-house means. Secretary Xi has suggested that in addition to targeting the “flies” (lower-ranking corrupt officials) the party would also take down its “tigers,” officials who are responsible for larger cities and provinces. Whether the Party’s removal of flies and tigers can improve the city of Nanjing’s economic and societal conditions remains to be seen.

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