Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China REUTERS/Jason Lee

Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a nationwide anti-corruption drive targeting what is notoriously known as "black societies", the nexus between the mafia and corrupt government officials. The initiative is aimed at improving the image of the ruling communist party by turning on the heat on organised crime involving corrupt local officials across the country.

In the crackdown, which is likely to be reminiscent of previous campaigns that had faced criticism over rights violations, the Xi administration is set to take on the nexus of the grassroots-level corruption to boost the communist party's image, which is thought to been taking a hit due to widespread fraud at the lower strata of the society.

The large-scale anti-corruption campaign is spearheaded by Xi himself along with about 30 party or government authorities.

The state-run People's Daily issued a notice on its front page on Thursday, 25 January, and called the anti-graft campaign a key decision which goes with the "Xi Jinping thought" – the official political ideology adopted in October 2017 after Xi was catapulted to the status of Mao Zedong.

This comes after Xi held a closed-door meeting with the communist party's anti-graft body, Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. He reportedly warned them that any kind of murky nexus between government officials and the mafia will not be tolerated.

Crackdown on matters related to pornography, gambling, illicit drugs, pyramid sales, abduction and human-trafficking have been earmarked as the top priority in the push, according to the state media.

"The national battle to eradicate triads and evils will be pivotal in securing the stability of the country, deciding whether the people are for or against [the party and the government] and in consolidating grassroots political power," read a statement released by the party's central body.

China is not new to such widespread and nationwide policy implementations or crackdowns but the effectiveness of the latest campaign is bound to be questioned. This is because of the alleged ineffectiveness of initiatives by previous administrations. But, the party's watchdog has pledged that there will be no rights abuse and the crackdown will be substantiated with evidence in order to address concerns over extrajudicial actions.

On the other hand, if the crackdown turns out to be successful, it would undoubtedly help Xi further cement his leadership and strengthen his power base across the country. Similar campaigns such as the one in 2009 led by prominent politician Bo Xilai, resulted in the arrest of thousands of individuals but organised crime has crawled back into the bureaucracy.

"It's not just a usual campaign; it's been deemed as a fight that the party must win," a source who has direct knowledge of the developments told the South China Morning Post.

Why is Xi Jinping cracking down on China's 'black societies' in fresh anti-corruption drive?