Corruption is thought to cost China US$86 billion each year. Widespread corruption at all levels of Chinese society also worsens economic inequality, which could potentially lead to social unrest.

A number of state, administrative and party authorities with overlapping powers currently share the task of fighting corruption. The most powerful of these are the Communist Party of China (CPC) Disciplinary Inspection Commissions (jiwei). And the most feared tool in their arsenal is shuanggui, which orders Communist Party members to a particular place for questioning and investigation. In practice, shuanggui is sometimes a secret and often indefinite detention mechanism. It has reportedly used torture and other illegal means to extract confessions.

Consolidating the various authorities with anti-corruption functions into one state entity established by the legislature may ostensibly resolve the long-debated issue of whether the Communist Party may exercise police and semi-judicial powers.

A state authority – the supervision commission with status defined by laws – will not only legitimise anti-corruption mechanisms and allow them wider coverage, it will also streamline the process and promote efficiency and transparency.

While there are far too many unknowns about this change, we do know that the new constitutional authority will be an integrated entity of the party and the state. The Chinese Communist Party is nowadays said to be “within the law, under the law, as well as above the law”. But by once again integrating the party and state power, the new reform is worrying from the perspective of the rule of law.

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