The Chinese Communist Party Ain’t What It Used to Be 

How It Works
Aug. 1 2014 11:49 AM

The Chinese Communist Party Ain’t What It Used to Be 

452882094-zhou-yongkang-one-of-the-members-of-the-nine-seat
No longer untouchable: Zhou Yongkang in 2011.

Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images

One of the recent international developments that would have been a huge news story any other month was China launching an investigation into former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang for vaguely defined "serious disciplinary violations." Zhou isn’t just the most high-profile target so far for President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption crackdown, as a member of China’s nine-member Politburo Standing Committee until he retired two years ago, he could be the highest-ranking Chinese official to face criminal charges since the early 1980s.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

There’s good reason to be cynical about the ongoing crackdown, which often seems motivated more by a desire to sideline prominent political threats to Xi’s rule than to clean up corruption. (If Xi’s really so concerned about exposing corrupt officials, something called a “free press” might help.)

Advertisement

Nonetheless, the crackdown, and the move against the previously untouchable Zhou in particular, seems to be popular with the Chinese public. It also may be changing some career ambitions and having an impact on membership in the world’s largest political party.  

The Financial Times reports that “last year, just 2.4m people joined the [Chinese Communist Party]—a quarter fewer than in 2012—marking the smallest number of new members since 2003.” 

It may be that increasing rates of entrepreneurship and the growing prominence of the private sector in the Chinese economy are making party membership less vital to success.

But some experts also believe that due to Xi’s anticorruption campaign, the perks of membership aren’t what they used to be and high rank in the party no longer carries the security and impunity that it used to.

Given the recent spate of suicides among high-ranking officials, it’s not surprising that party membership may not seem quite as appealing as it used to.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 16 2014 8:00 AM The Wall Street Bombing: Low-Tech Terrorism in Prohibition-era New York
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 7:36 AM The Inspiration Drought Why our science fiction needs new dreams.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.