Following the official announcement of a disciplinary investigation into onetime top Hu Jintao aide Ling Jihua, Reuters’ Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard report that the former president had approved the probe:
Chinese President Xi Jinping secured the blessing of his still influential predecessor, Hu Jintao, before launching a corruption probe against a former senior aide to Hu – a sign that internal Communist Party harmony and respect for elders still holds sway in Xi’s historic crackdown on official graft.
[…] “In investigating Ling, Xi was not targeting Hu,” one individual with ties to the leadership told Reuters. “Hu did not (try to) block the investigation. He agreed to and supported it when consulted.”
[…] Ling was first demoted in September 2012 after sources said his son was involved in a fatal crash involving his Ferrari sports car in Beijing six months earlier [see prior CDT coverage].
[…] Speculation about Ling’s fate had been running high after a probe into his older brother, Ling Zhengce, was announced in June for suspected “serious discipline and law violations”. After Ling Zhengce fell, the official Xinhua news agency noted cryptically that “having somebody in the palace won’t help”, in pointed reference to his family connections. [see prior CDT coverage] […] [Source]
The ongoing anti-corruption campaign has done much to consolidate the power of President Xi within the Communist Party. Ling Jihua was rumored to be a member of the “New Gang of Four” along with former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, now serving life in prison for corruption charges; retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, arrested and expelled from the Party earlier this month; and former Central Military Commission vice-chairman Xu Caihou, expelled from the Party in June in now under investigation for corruption.
After an elite CCP meeting overseen by Xi Jinping earlier this week, a Party circular warned that cliques within the Party would not be tolerated. Covering the meeting for the Wall Street Journal, James T. Areddy notes that further central control of the Communist Youth League—overseen by Hu during his early career—was also discussed, an indication that the warning against cliques could be pointed at Hu’s allies:
[…] The report said the meeting also reviewed a document on improving party control of groups such as the Communist Youth League—long considered a base of power for Mr. Hu.
[…] Cliques have long been a fixture of Chinese politics under the Communist party, but their existence undermines its sought-after image of united one-party rule. Mr. Xi has repeatedly called for party unity in the face of a two-year anticorruption campaign that has put thousands of Chinese officials under focus.
[…] The fall of Mr. Ling has put new scrutiny on Mr. Xi’s power to shake up the system because of the official’s close ties to Mr. Hu, who stepped down in late 2012—though it isn’t clear whether this week’s warning is related to Mr. Hu. “We have to know the Communist Youth League was controlled by Hu Jintao and people around him but it remains to be seen if it is a faction,” Mr. Cabestan said.
Mr. Hu in the 1980s officially headed the Youth League, which grooms cadres for leadership positions, and built strong associations from the group as he rose. Mr. Cabestan said that Youth League is a “stronghold” every party leader wants to control because of that role. […] [Source]