The formal arrest and expected trial of Zhou Yongkang means a change in how China is dealing with its ruling elite, tells political scientist Victor Shih in the International Business Times. “No leader is safe from corruption investigation… We see now the rule by law.”
The International Business Times:
According to Victor Shih, an expert in Chinese politics at the University of California San Diego, Zhou’s arrest “breaks down the implicit understanding, that had been in place since Deng Xiaoping launched reforms in 1978, that Politburo Standing Committee members would not be arrested and tried for corruption.”
“[Zhou’s downfall] now means that no group or leader is now safe from a corruption investigation.”
Zhou’s trial also has implications for the Communist Party’s stated goal of establishing the rule of law, which will form a central theme of China’s upcoming 4th Plenum political meeting. Having a trial — even one where the outcome is fixed — allows Beijing to claim that Zhou’s corruption charge was legitimate rather than the result of a political power struggle. Reuters reported Wednesday that Xi sought the consensus of his two living predecessors — Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — before proceeding with the case against Zhou, reducing fears that Zhou’s case may trigger factional infighting within the Communist Party leadership. A trial, according to Shih, would reinforce the sense that China is moving towards a more stable legal system.
“There have been a lot of rumors that there had been a disagreement between Xi and his predecessors over what to do with with Zhou, so putting him on trial would put these to rest.”
Still, China’s legal system remains tied to the whims and directives of the Communist Party.
“No rules or law will stand in the way of the dominance of the CCP,” Shih says. “It isn’t the rule of law, but really the rule by law.”