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‘I Don’t Know Where Some Cadres Get Their Magical Powers’

And Other Quotations from Xi Jinping’s New Book on Corruption

Earlier this month, at the close of the Chinese Communist Party’s 5th Plenum, the official People’s Daily noted on its website that as this important agenda-setting meeting came to a close it was worth paying attention to the recent publication of a book entitled Extracts of Xi Jinping’s Discussions of Party Working Style, Clean Government, and the Struggle Against Corruption. According to the People’s Daily, the 148-page digest gathers Xi’s statements from both public and “internal” meetings since the 18th Party Congress in 2012, making public for the first time some of Xi’s most direct pronouncements on his anti-corruption campaign and revealing the extent to which he uses “colloquial and ruthless language” to upbraid wayward comrades. The People’s Daily compiled dozens of these pronouncements and we have translated the handful we found most illuminating. —The Editors

  • “A man who is good at ruling the people through prohibitions must first apply these prohibitions to himself and only then can he rule others.”* Cadres at all levels must set an example, take the lead in being exemplars, when they say they will do something, do it, when they make a promise, honor it. This is what the entire Politburo will do, starting with me. (January 22, 2013)
    *Xi was quoting Xun Yue, a writer and statesman during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.).

  • If you yourself are not restrained, not tidy, not clean, if you give people cause to point fingers behind your back, then how can you make demands of others? There’s nothing you can say, and even if you could it would be useless. (July 8, 2013)

  • No matter how high your rank, whoever breaks the law will have to take responsibility and be dealt with accordingly. I don’t think that will cause the sky to fall. (September 26, 2013)

  • If a local corruption problem is serious and the people responsible feign ignorance and act like they’re good people, they aren’t the kind of “good people” the Party and the people need. If you’re a good person in the context of a corrupt situation, you can’t simultaneously be a good person in the eyes of the Party or of the people. (June 26, 2014)

  • If you want to rectify and reform, look to the past and don’t stop investigating older cases. (June 26, 2014)

  • There are some local discipline and inspection leaders who even say to Party leaders and cadres of the same rank, “You didn’t say anything and I didn’t hear anything.” This situation is highly abnormal. It must change. (January 14, 2014)

  • You shouldn’t make higher- and lower-level relations become what Mao Zedong criticized as cat and mouse relations, or the old society’s master-servant, father-son relations or factions. The Party absolutely cannot submit to feudalism within its ranks. It can’t become a lofty enclave, a little circle, a little gang. It absolutely cannot become a parasitic guest. If [the Party] gets into this kind of thing, there’s bound to come a day when it ceases to exist. (January 1, 2014)

  • In the politics of thought, there are some people who believe: “I can use Marxist-Leninism when dealing with others and Liberalism when dealing with myself.” “I can speak out of two mouths, and display two different faces in my conduct.” In organizational life, there are some people who believe: “In making a self-criticism one should look for excuses, and when criticizing others one should merely make suggestions.” “If you don't criticize me, I won't criticize you, but if you criticize me, I must criticize you.” “Higher ups should humor and protect their subordinates, subordinates should exalt and flatter their higher ups. Officials at the same level should reassure and give in to one another.” In carrying out policies, there are some people who believe, “If you run into a yellow light, speed past it. If you run into a red light, bypass it.” “Don’t strive to make the people applaud, just strive to make the leaders nod their approval.” When assigning cadres to posts there are some people who believe “if [a lower level official] doesn’t run around or give you gifts, demote him; if he runs around but doesn’t give you gifts, keep him at the same level; if he runs around and gives you gifts, promote him.” In interpersonal relationships, there are some people who believe: “Official seals are less important than bribes, bribes are less useful than face,” “With guanxi [personal connections], you can go anywhere; without guanxi, you can’t take a single step.” These rules may seem not to exist, but in fact there is nowhere they are not present. They may sound irrational, but, in fact, they are malignant tumors growing unchecked, corrupting Party members and officials, corroding the spirit of our party. If we don’t stop their growth then how can our party’s working style, our governance, and our social conduct ever improve? (May 9, 2014)

  • In local government, there are some officials who dare to embezzle money allocated for poverty alleviation, agriculture, healthcare, and social security, and even use the money for bribes or to buy themselves promotions. The people’s “Survival Fund” becomes an official “Promotion-Purchasing Fund.” In developed areas, construction projects are power-for-money deals for officials. In poor areas, officials embezzle money from poverty alleviation programs. The evil of this makes one’s blood boil! (May 9, 2014)

  • I don’t know where some leaders and cadres get their magical powers. They have numerous ID cards; they have illegally obtained private passports, and even Green Cards from foreign countries or multiple Hong Kong ID cards. Some have even sent their wives and children to live in foreign countries, without reporting to the Party. They don’t even give the Party a say, they treat it as if it doesn’t mean a thing. We have to investigate all of this and what we find needs to be dealt with. We can’t allow [this kind of behavior] to set a precedent. (May 9, 2014)

  • We need to put our door gods in order. We can't let devils in. Not big devils and not small devils. We have to have integrity. This is our first line of defense. We must be vigilant and we must be reverent. As soon as you commit a crime, you have nothing. You’ve lost your family fortune and your family is destroyed. As for big-time corrupt officials, they all eventually become storeroom clerks. The money may pass through their hands, but sooner or later it will be returned to the people. Don’t do these kinds of [criminal] things. (May 9, 2014)

Translated by Susan Jakes, Yan Cong, and Zhang Xiaoran.