China's year of fighting corruption
The fact that "anti-corruption" was chosen as the Chinese word of the year in 2014 underlines the success of its blitzkrieg against graft.
Beijing: The fact that "anti-corruption" was chosen as the Chinese word of the year in 2014 underlines the success of its blitzkrieg against graft.
The very fact that Zhou Yongkang, once one of the most powerful officials in China, was handed over to prosecutors in early December shows the seriousness of the crusade that was launched after Xi Jingping became president in 2012.
Zhou, one of nine Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee from 2007 to 2012, was the highest-ranking official taken down in this year`s anti-corruption campaign.
"Nailing a high-ranking official like Zhou sends a strong message to all senior officials. It supports the Party`s zero-tolerance policy against corruption," state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Huang Weiting, a researcher with Seeking Truth, the official magazine of the CPC Central Committee, as saying.
Nobody has been spared in this fight, whether they be "tigers", a popular term for high-ranking corrupt officials, or "flies", the term for low-ranking corrupt officials.
The fight is not just about deterrence only. It is a protracted war given the scale of investigations as well as new initiatives and legal reform, according to Xinhua.
"Although the majority of CPC members are dutiful and well behaved, corruption has been a prevailing problem and will be a serious threat to the party`s rule of the country if not well contained," Huang said.
Citing the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), Xinhua reported that about 50 officials at the provincial and ministerial level or higher have been investigated for corruption or other serious disciplinary violations since November 2012.
The fight against corruption has not been confined to within the borders of China alone. Operation Fox Hunt, launched as part of the campaign, is aimed at tracking down corrupt Chinese officials and businessmen who have fled abroad.
According to data released by the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity Group, around $1.1 trillion flowed out illegally from China between 2002 and 2011, most of it through casinos in Macau.
Operation Fox Hunt, which will end Dec 31, has brought about 400 fugitives back to China, many of whom were corrupt officials, and 54 percent of them have turned themselves in, according to Xinhua.
Ren Jianming, an expert on anti-corruption and governance with the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, told Xinhua that these new initiatives have helped close loopholes in the party and government systems and contributed to the long-term anti-graft battle.
The fight against corruption apart, 2014 also saw China getting involved in diplomatic tangles vis-a-vis its territorial rights over the South China Sea.
According to a position paper released by the Chinese foreign ministry in December on the matter of jurisdiction in the South China Sea arbitration initiated by the Philippines, the Chinese government will neither accept nor participate in arbitration in the International Court of Justice.
In March, China said that it would not allow the Philippines to occupy the Ren`ai Reef off China`s Nansha Islands in any form, while reiterating that China owned sovereignty over the islands.
In June, China urged Vietnam to stop all disruptions to drilling near the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, and withdraw all vessels from the scene.
In July, China urged "countries outside the region" to stay out of disputes over the South China Sea after a US official proposed that claimants freeze actions which could change the status-quo in the region, according to the position paper.
The year 2014 also saw turbulence in China`s ties with Japan.
It all started with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet ministers visiting the controversial Yasukuni war memorial.
"The Yasukuni Shrine honours 14 convicted Class-A Japanese war criminals from World War II and glorifies its history of aggression," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Aug 16.
"The visit and offering again reflect the Japanese government`s wrong attitude toward historical issues," she stated.
The Diaoyu islands also continued to remain a bone of contention between China and Japan.
On Aug 1, China opposed Japan`s naming of five islets belonging to the Diaoyu Islands, saying the move was illegal and invalid.
Japan`s resolution to allow the country to exercise its right of collective self-defence by reinterpreting the pacifist constitution and thus paving the way for Japanese forces to fight abroad also riled China.
However, China`s relations with India received a fillip when President Xi Jinping visited India in September at the invitation of new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Though India`s concerns over Chinese troops` incursions remained at the forefront of talks between Modi and Xi, the two nations charted a new chapter in economic ties with Beijing announcing $20 billion investment over the next five years.
On the border issue, Xi said both sides have agreed to "continue to be sensitive and respectful to each other`s sensitivities and concerns and progressively handle the outstanding issues in a positive attitude".