ChinaFile Launches Interactive Tool Tracking China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign

NEW YORK, January 21, 2016 — ChinaFile, the online magazine of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, launched today “Catching Tigers and Flies,” an interactive tool for tracking China’s massive campaign against corruption that President Xi Jinping launched shortly after he came to power in late 2012.

Xi has undertaken the task of combating corruption in China’s Communist Party with unprecedented zeal. His deputies—most prominent among them Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Qishan and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) which he commands—have felled officials of both high and low rank, or as Xi himself put it in a memorable phrase, both “tigers and flies.” To date, tens of thousands have been swept out of office.

“Catching Tigers and Flies” is designed to give users a sense of the scope and character of the anti-corruption campaign by graphically rendering information about nearly 1,500 of its targets whose cases have been publicly announced either by the CCDI, its official media partners, or related Chinese government organs.

The cases tracked span the period from January 1, 2010 to the present. The tool allows users to break out individuals in the fields of Mining, Petroleum, Law (and law enforcement), Media, Military, Real Estate, and Rail.

Profile of former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai on the "Catching Tigers and Flies" tool. Bo was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. Users may embed any view of the tool on another webpage.

“We’ve only begun to explore the data we have collected ourselves,” said ChinaFile Editor Susan Jakes. “Our hope is that by making it available to journalists and scholars who follow China most closely we can help produce new insights on the ways the campaign has been pursued thus far, and the direction it will take going forward.”

A preliminary analysis of the data to date reveals that:

  • Of the more than 1,460 individuals tracked, the vast majority are officials at the local and provincial level. One hundred seventy five worked for state-owned enterprises.
  • A couple dozen individuals in the database were under investigation for corruption before Xi’s rise to power, but the vast majority have fallen as a result of the campaign.
  • Like China’s Communist Party itself, the database skews heavily male, with only 69 females in total. Only three women, in a pool of 146, are “tigers,” with rank above or equivalent to that of Deputy Provincial or Deputy Ministerial level officials.
  • The 232 sentenced individuals in the database are responsible for having embezzled, stolen, or taken as bribes more than 6 billion yuan, or nearly a billion dollars.
  • Sentencing documents often include lurid details. Yang Yueguo, a relatively minor Yunnan official, purchased 200,000 yuan worth of jade jewelry using public funds. Quan Xiaohui, a municipal official in Henan, kept three mistresses. And Yan Yongxi, who once presided over Beijing’s rural Mentougou district, tried to hide his embezzled millions in his mistress’ gardening company
  • Geographically, the cases in our database are spread throughout the whole country, but certain provinces, including Guangdong, Henan, and Shanxi (the stronghold of Hu Jintao’s former top aide, Ling Jihua) have seen the highest numbers, after Beijing, of individuals targeted. Fujian and Zhejiang, both provinces Xi Jinping once led, are among those that appear to have been treated more leniently.
  • The CCDI has announced 17 new investigations so far in 2016, including probes into several local officials, the head of the “clean and honest governance” unit of the prominent Fosun group, and a deputy director of the Beijing office in charge of Taiwan affairs, whose investigation was announced just days after Taiwan elected a new President whose party favors greater independence from the mainland.

“Catching Tigers and Flies” was built for ChinaFile by Schema, a Seattle-based design firm, and conceived by its Creative Director, Christian Marc Schmidt and ChinaFile’s Director of Visuals, David Barreda. It is built off of a database compiled by a group of ChinaFile editors of interns and editors, which will be continuously updated. ChinaFile and Schema plan will continue to update and refine the tool in the months ahead.

About ChinaFile

ChinaFile is an online magazine published by the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, dedicated to promoting an informed, nuanced, and vibrant public conversation about China, in the U.S. and around the world. ChinaFile publishes original reporting and analysis across a wide spectrum of topics in text, photography, and video. We devote our energy to underreported subjects, innovative and elegant storytelling, experts interested in engaging non-experts, Chinese analysts who want to write for international audiences, and questions we feel haven’t been adequately explained by other publications. Our contributors are journalists, scholars, and other experts working both inside and outside of China. ChinaFile is an online magazine published by the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, dedicated to promoting an informed, nuanced, and vibrant public conversation about China, in the U.S. and around the world. ChinaFile publishes original reporting and analysis across a wide spectrum of topics in text, photography, and video. We devote our energy to underreported subjects, innovative and elegant storytelling, experts interested in engaging non-experts, Chinese analysts who want to write for international audiences, and questions we feel haven’t been adequately explained by other publications. Our contributors are journalists, scholars, and other experts working both inside and outside of China.