Wen Jiabao, the former Premier of China who stepped down last spring, sounds scared.
This weekend he wrote a letter to a columnist in Hong Kong denying any abuse of power during his rule, according to the South China Morning Post.
But Wen hasn’t been accused of anything yet.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t have reason to worry. Over the last few months since President Xi Jinping took power, party power broker after party power broker has gone down in a wide-reaching graft probe. Most recently, the party launched an investigation into China’s former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, for corruption and “violating party discipline.”
In 2012, the New York Times published that Wen had accumulated $US2.7 billion in hidden wealth during his rule.
Knowing that, his letter makes a bit more sense. Here’s what Wen wrote (from SCMP):
“I have never been involved and would not get involved in one single deal of abusing my power for personal gain because no such gains whatsoever could shake my convictions,” Wen said in the letter to Ng Hong-mun, a former deputy to the National People’s Congress, on December 27…
“I want to walk the last journey in this world well. I came to this world with bare hands and I want to leave this world clean,” Wen wrote in the letter.
If Wen is accused of corruption, he’ll top Zhou as the highest ranking official ever to be taken down since the Communist Party took power in 1949.
At the end of last year a post called, ‘You’re Nothing Without The Motherland’ went viral in China. It decried Western powers and their influence on the country, and more importantly, lauded Xi Jinping for his ability to capture ‘big tigers’ — corrupt officials doing damage to the country.
It was an example of a strain of nationalistic propaganda (and intellectual thought) coming to the fore in China that wishes to see Xi in control of everything.
Academics call it ‘neo-authoritarianism’ and it argues that, China needs a strongman who also believes in capitalism to really get China’s economy in gear. Everyone else can sit down and enjoy the ride.
Xiao Gongqin, a history professor at Shanghai Normal University started arguing this in the 1980s, and based it on Deng Xiaping, an authoritarian economic reformer.
All that said, what we may be seeing with these probes is a consolidation of power on Xi Jinping’s part.
Since the Third Plenum, a meeting on Chinese political and economic reforms, he’s taken leadership of the Central Finance and Economy Lending group — the group that decides on economic reform — from the office of Premier Li Keqiang, and put under the office of the President. That’s one solid example.
Wen Jiabao’s take down may be the next one.