News China (the English version of China Newsweek, or 中国新闻周刊) examines the systemic factors that impede the official fight against corruption, concluding that “the sheer extent of corruption in China continues to outpace all attempts at a crackdown”:
Professor Zhang Tao from Shenzhen University argues that, rather than the methods of corruption, it is precisely the ineffectual anti-corruption mechanisms within the Party and the government that are at fault. After reviewing the 35 cases of both provincial and ministerial-level officials prosecuted for corruption between 1987 and 2011, Zhang found that only four cases (11.4 percent) were exposed by the Central Disciplinary Inspection Commission. 24 cases, or 68.6 percent of the total, were exposed only as a byproduct of other investigations, and five were the result of whistleblowing.
[…] Many political scientists agree that the apparent impotence of China’s anti-corruption authorities is a direct result of their lack of independence. All anti-corruption organizations at various levels, right up to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, are subordinate to their relevant Party committees. In the end, Party chiefs have the final say on who is investigated, who is charged with corruption, who is ultimately convicted and the severity of their sentence. This creates a huge blind spot for anti-corruption investigators – essentially, any official under the protection of the Party committee is out-of-bounds.
“As a result, a Party chief can effectively decide on who to investigate, and who to let go,” said Professor Ren Jianming, a governance expert from Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics.
This flawed system also helps to make corruption self-sustaining. “A corrupt official tends to promote other corrupt officials on the understanding that if everyone is corrupt, then everyone is safe,” Ren told our reporter. “To promote a clean official is to sit yourself beside a ticking time bomb.” [Source]
The Xi Jinping administration has recently launched a number of high-profile corruption investigations, including a crackdown on officials and businessmen in the oil industry linked to former security chief Zhou Yongkang.