Princeton University Library Catalog

The Politics of Purge in the Post-Reform Era: An Analysis of Fallen Leaders from the Chinese Communist Party Politburo

Yang, Megan [Browse]
Senior thesis
Yarhi-Milo, Keren [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
49 pages
Summary note:
Self-interest is a driving force for change and when self-interest meets public interest, real progress is made, quickly. However, the dark side of self-interest is corruption. Corruption within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is notoriously widespread. Various surveys conducted at both elite and mass levels have “consistently ranked corruption as one of China’s top political challenges and social problems.” Yet, in a rapidly growing economy that is also in the process of shifting from a socialist to a market-based growth model, corruption can and almost should be expected. President Xi Jinping has made anti-corruption the hallmark of his administration – vowing to crackdown on both “tigers and flies” – high-level leaders and lowly bureaucrats. Since it began in 2012, Xi’s anti-graft campaign has managed to expel more than 160 “tigers,” whose rank is above or equivalent to that of the deputy provincial or deputy ministerial level, and more than 1,400 lower-level officials. While these numbers may sound impressive, prosecutions are still rare, and many are power struggles veiled as corruption enforcements. This thesis examines the expulsion of high-level CCP officials in the post-reform era within the context of leadership-driven anti-corruption campaigns. It reveals corruption charges as a necessary, but not exclusive condition for party expulsion. Political purge via expulsion consolidates power and position under the veil of anticorruption. In examining the expulsions of three former Politburo officials across the three post-reform administrations, this thesis explains how shifting power dynamics play out in authoritarian power sharing. This thesis will explain more of reasons, the history, the political culture, and the outcomes of contemporary, Chinese elite power struggles. It will conclude by offering a glimpse into the future of how the current structure could evolve and why.