Is Zhou Yongkang’s Life Sentence Symbolic Of Changes In Chinese Politics?

So Zhou Yongkang has been sentenced to life in a Chinese political war. It is an unprecedented move for China. Zhou Yongkang was one of the highest-ranking members in China’s ruling communist party before he was arrested in late 2013. He was of a societal sphere that was previously untouchable. The fact that he now faces a life sentence is unprecedented since the communist party took power in China.

BBC noted what this recent move represents for Chinese politics.

“Months passed without any word. Some guessed that Zhou Yongkang was not co-operating with prosecutors. Others believed that his crimes were too much of an embarrassment for the government. After all, Zhou Yongkang had held a seat at the very top of the Chinese government pyramid. If he was thoroughly corrupt, some in China might ask whether others at the top were rotten too.”

Since Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2012, he’s pressed forth on a campaign to clean up the rampant corruption that characterizes Chinese politicians. High-ranking Zhou Yongkang’s arrest is like a culmination of those anti-corruption efforts. At the same time, it is a result of warring political factions.

In China there are no presidential elections. High-level leaders are chosen by the officials who precede them. When Xi Jinping was appointed as president in 2012, Zhou Yongkang was already a political rival of a competing faction. A serious incident occurred two months after Xi took power. A lower-level Chinese official took refuge in the U.S. consulate, fearing for his life, and spilled news of a planned coup attempt against the new president, among other dirty secrets. The coup would involve officials Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang as its orchestrators. News spread, and the new president began investigating all officials close to Zhou. Bo Xilai was arrested in connection, which later led to the arrest of big man puppeteer Zhou Yongkang.

Not everyone associated with that potential coup has been arrested. A particular overlord ringleader is rumored to be next. Jiang Zemin worked with Zhou earlier in his career and the two supported each other as powerful politicians. The two are also believed to have commanded the relentless persecution on China’s popular spiritual practice, Falun Gong.

The official crimes Zhou is charged with include receiving millions of dollars in bribes, abusing his power, and revealing state secrets. The government will take over all of his assets. We have yet to see what all this will ultimately lead to as far as larger changes in governance, or if there will be a response from Zhou’s remaining associates.

[Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images]

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