BEIJING -- None of the Chinese Communist Party's top 200 officials were ensnared in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign last year, suggesting that the pursuit of political enemies has become a lower priority as China's leader has consolidated power.
The party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection punished 27 provincial- and ministerial-level officials in 2020, down from 41 in 2019, the country's top corruption-fighting agency says.
No officials from the party's roughly 200-strong Central Committee were disciplined -- a first since Xi became general secretary in November 2012 -- nor were any alternate members of the committee or members of the discipline commission itself.
"Almost all of the top officials have been appointed by Xi's government, so there's a risk that any new [corruption] allegations could rebound on Xi given his responsibility for naming them," said Tomoki Kamo, a professor at Keio University in Tokyo.
Xi announced the anti-graft campaign in January 2013, two months after assuming leadership, vowing to crack down on both "tigers" and "flies" -- officials at all levels of the party hierarchy.
Annual cases against high-level officials peaked at nine in 2017, a rise linked to a fierce power struggle ahead of the twice-a-decade party congress that October. That year saw Sun Zhengcai, the then-party secretary for Chongqing, removed from office, among others.
Many of the "tigers" caught up in the crackdown had ties to former President Jiang Zemin and other figures at odds with Xi.
The lull in high-profile cases does not mean the anti-graft campaign is over. The focus simply seems to have moved further down the hierarchy.
The total number of party members disciplined, from high-level officials to the rank and file, rose to roughly 600,000 last year from around 590,000 in 2019. This includes many Wuhan officials faulted for their clumsy handling of the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.
Another focus is China's security apparatus. At a January meeting of the discipline commission, Xi called for strong action against corruption and discipline violations in legal and political agencies.
The party's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission oversees a vast array of powers, including the police, security forces, prosecutors and courts. Once dominated by Zhou Yongkang, an early target of Xi's purge, it is arguably the last area to be touched by the Chinese leader's power grab.