China’s fight against entrenched corruption is not a “House of Cards”-style power struggle, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday as he began his first state visit to the United States, vowing to press on with his campaign.
Xi has warned that corruption threatens the ruling Communist Party’s survival and his three-year anti-graft campaign has brought down scores of senior officials in the party, the government, the military and state-owned enterprises.
There has been repeated speculation at home and abroad – and sources with ties to the leadership have told Reuters – that the graft crackdown is as much about Xi taking down his enemies as it is about cleaning up the Communist Party.
“Recently, we have cracked down on corruption … taking out both tigers and flies,” Xi said, referring to both high level and low level officials, in a keynote address to 650 business executives and other guests in Seattle.
“This is in line with the people’s requirements. There is no power struggle in this. There is no ‘House of Cards’,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
The U.S. remake of the British political drama “House of Cards” is wildly popular in China, where it is watched on illegal downloads and pirated DVDs.
“If we do not resolve the problem that exists, the people will neither trust nor support us,” Xi said. “So we stress, in managing the country, we must also manage the party; the party’s governance has to be strict, too.”
China last week hailed the return by the United States of one of China’s most prominent fugitives wanted for corruption as good progress and a foundation for cooperation.
Chinese officials have long complained that China’s anti-corruption fight has been hampered by a reluctance by Western countries to sign extradition treaties.
China does not have extradition treaties with the United States or Canada – the most popular destinations for suspected economic criminals from China.
Xi is due to hold talks with President Barack Obama later in the week, where the issue of corruption suspects who have fled China is expected to come up.
“The Chinese people hope that on this issue we can get support and coordination from the United States, so corrupt elements have no place to hide overseas,” Xi said.
The failure by China to secure the return of suspects from the United States has been an irritant in ties. The United States has said it is not averse to cooperating on the issue but China has often failed to produce the kind of evidence of criminality needed under U.S. law to support deportation.
(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)
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