(The Weekly Standard) -- In little over a year, close to 60 Chinese officials have died of unnatural causes, with most being suicides. The strong suspicion is that this epidemic of mysterious deaths among China’s elite is likely tied to the anticorruption campaign being led by Chinese president and party general secretary Xi Jinping.
Certainly Xi Jinping’s anticorruption drive has reached higher in the bureaucracy than any such effort in decades. Coming on the heels of the prosecution of the high-flying Bo Xilai, a former Central Politburo member and potential rival of Xi, it raises the possibility of elite instability on a level not seen since the Cultural Revolution. Not surprisingly, Chinese newspapers have been told in a secret order from Beijing to stop reporting on suicides by top government and party officials.
Understanding what all this means is one of the U.S. government’s most important strategic intelligence tasks. While China is not, in intelligence terms, a “closed society” along the lines of the former Soviet Union or present-day North Korea, it remains a challenge to get inside the heads, as it were, of China’s elite to understand how they view the challenges they face, how decisions are made, and why.