Technology

Xi Jinping’s graft crackdown targets technology minister

China’s minister for industry and technology Xiao Yaqing is under investigation by the Chinese Communist party’s deeply feared internal watchdog, becoming the latest high-ranking cadre to run foul of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said the 62-year-old was suspected of “violation of discipline and law”, without giving further details. Ambiguous wording is often a precursor to more specific corruption charges from the CCDI.

Xiao, head of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology since 2020, had a high-profile position spearheading Beijing’s drive for technological self-sufficiency, including in computer chips and telecoms, a national security priority for Xi’s government.

He was previously head of the State Administration for Market Regulation, China’s market watchdog.

The CCDI investigation into Xiao comes as Xi’s long-running anti-corruption crusade has intensified ahead of a crucial party congress later this year when the president is expected to secure an unprecedented third term.

The nearly 10-year anti-corruption campaign has long been viewed by analysts as serving a dual purpose of eliminating graft from Chinese politics, government and business, as well as purging Xi’s rivals and possible future threats.

The investigation of Xiao follows that of tens of thousands of officials since Xi took power in late 2012.

But the populist anti-graft campaign has ratcheted up since late last year when the CCDI probed as many as 25 important state financial institutions.

Following several months of inspections, the CCDI has announced new investigations into a handful of financial regulators. Analysts say a new wave of corruption cases might be announced.

On Wednesday, the CCDI said it had placed under investigation Chen Shuang, former chief executive of China Everbright, a Hong Kong-listed financial conglomerate that is controlled by the Chinese state. The CCDI said Chen was suspected of “violations of the law” but did not provide further information.

The 54-year-old, who resigned from Everbright in 2019, was chair of the Hua Jing Society, a Hong Kong-based social group for elite Chinese “princelings” — as the children of senior party officials are known. In 2016, the group tried to buy English football club Liverpool.

Xi’s targeting of “tigers and flies”, or high- and low-ranking government officials, has mostly brought down members of the 95mn-strong CCP, including senior leaders such as Ling Jihua, a top aide to former president Hu Jintao, and Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief.

According to senior western officials, including Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Beijing regularly compels fugitive Chinese to return from foreign soil as part of the corruption crackdown.

The extralegal tactics of the CCDI and China’s security agents include coercion and covert overseas missions, including kidnappings.

Additional reporting by Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong

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