Trouble at the Top | Chinese officialdom is in turmoil

China has its own way of dealing with Corruption. America take note please. It works for them.



The Weekly Standard
By Abram N. Shulsky
and Gary Schmitt
19 May 2014

In little over a year, close to 60 Chinese officials have died of unnatural causes, with most being suicides. The strong suspicion is that this epidemic of mysterious deaths among China’s elite is likely tied to the anticorruption campaign being led by Chinese president and party general secretary Xi Jinping.

Certainly Xi Jinping’s anticorruption drive has reached higher in the bureaucracy than any such effort in decades. Coming on the heels of the prosecution of the high-flying Bo Xilai, a former Central Politburo member and potential rival of Xi, it raises the possibility of elite instability on a level not seen since the Cultural Revolution. Not surprisingly, Chinese newspapers have been told in a secret order from Beijing to stop reporting on suicides by top government and party officials.

Understanding what all this means is one of the U.S. government’s most important strategic intelligence tasks. While China is not, in intelligence terms, a “closed society” along the lines of the former Soviet Union or present-day North Korea, it remains a challenge to get inside the heads, as it were, of China’s elite to understand how they view the challenges they face, how decisions are made, and why.

Needless to say, it has proven difficult to recruit highly placed sources within a country with a pervasive domestic security apparatus like China’s. Effective internal security programs make it difficult, first, to recruit someone and, second, to keep that individual reporting for any length of time without being discovered.

Hence, in the past, when facing such hard targets, a primary source of information—indeed, perhaps the principal source of information at times—was the timely defection. An official who for one reason or another decides to abandon his country and who has had access through his employment or connections to valuable information can reasonably hope to be welcomed in countries that want the information. Although not as valuable as “agents-in-place,” defectors have been crucial sources of intelligence about governments where information is scant.

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