21 March 2014. Xu Caihou, 70, a retired high ranking General has been detained on charges of corruption. Last year he stepped down from the position of vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. In 2012 he retired from the Communist Party’s most powerful decision-making Politburo. He moved in highest political circles and wielded immense power. He was believed to be a protégé of former president Jiang Zemin and he was also a supporter of now disgraced Chongqing Communist Party chief, Bo Xilai. He has also worked with President Xi Jinping, while he was one of the three vice-chairmen of Central Military Commission (CMC). The President is the Chairman of the CMC. He is also said to have connections with security chief and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang who is also under investigation for graft.
Xu was born in June 1943; he went to Harbin Institute of Military Engineering to study electronic engineering. Soon after completing his studies he joined the army. It was in the year 1963. In 1971 he joined the party and was stationed in Jilin before moving to Beijing.
His rise from being a being a political commissar in the army to be the Assistant Director of PLA General Political Department in 1992 was meteoric. Some say that this was due to a vacuum created in the army when Yang Shangkun and his allies, including his half-brother, were purged by Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin in the same year. He was promoted to the position of deputy director of the PLA General Political Department in 1999 and was admitted to the CMC in 2000. He became the director general of CMC n just two years in 2002 and later he became the vice-chairman of CMC in 2004. He was a member of the all-powerful Politburo by 2007.
If Xu is taken to the courts, Xu will be the highest ranking officer to be tried. But Xu suffers from kidney cancer which will not result in a meaningful trial.
He said to have given ranks for middle and high ranking officers after accepting bribes. Although Xi Jinping has consolidated his position with the army, it is unlikely that he will go after the scores of officers who bribed Xu to get higher rank. This will weaken his position with the PLA.
There was corruption in the PLA even from the time of Deng Xiaoping. It is difficult to eradicate this because of the enormous political power that PLA has. The weakness is in the political system that gives political power to the army. In the beginning the army support was necessary to have a peaceful system after the revolution. But continuing to give political power to the army is nonsense.
Only a leader with such charisma and power will be able to relieve army from political power and let army personnel vote as individuals rather than as armed officers. But then, if this can happen, China will become the biggest democracy in the world.