News / Asia

Analysts: China Corruption Crackdown Lacks Independence

China Crackdown Limits Waste but Lacks Independencei
December 13, 2013 4:34 PM
In the first year of his administration, Chinese President Xi Jinping's efforts to cut government waste and go after high-ranking officials have won him praise and recorded some successes, but some say much more needs to be done. VOA’s Bill Ide reports from Beijing.
China Crackdown Limits Waste but Lacks Independence
In the first year of his administration, Chinese President Xi Jinping has touted a high-profile effort to root out graft. His efforts to cut government waste and go after high-ranking officials have won him praise, but some say much more needs to be done.

Over the past year, China held one of its biggest political trials in decades and in a first, broadcast the court proceedings in almost real time online.
While the trial of ousted political star Bo Xilai drew international headlines, high-ranking officials at state-owned companies have also been targeted.

Hu Xingdou, an economist at the Beijing Institute of Technology, says despite the fanfare around the anti-corruption campaign, it is not unprecedented.

“There is not much in terms of institutional reform on how to combat corruption, and there is not much substantive difference with what they tried in the past,” he said.
According to statistics released by the Supreme People’s Court Procuratorate, the number of officials under investigation this year has not significantly increased from previous years.

But He Bing, a legal scholar at the China University of Political Science and Law, says there has been a change in the intensity of the anti-corruption campaign.

“Over the past year, about 10- 20 officials of the vice ministerial ranking or higher have been arrested. It is an intense crackdown,” He Bing says. “One can talk about cracking down on corruption, but the key thing is that you arrest those who are corrupt.”

Public Strutiny
Officials are also facing increased public scrutiny and it is getting more difficult for officials to flaunt their wealth and misuse public funds. When a local Beijing official decided to host a massive three-day wedding for his son in October, the media pounced.
Later, he was removed from office.
Newspapers and television channels have also released lengthy undercover reports about the measures officials are using to skirt a ban on banquets and misuse public funds.
Over the past year, restaurants that host banquets have been hit hard, with many seeing their business almost cut in half. Some have tried to continue to survive by creating more private spaces for government officials.
Ministry Street
On Beijing’s Yuetan Street, also known as Ministry Street because of the many government offices nearby, sellers of high-end Chinese liquor say sales have sunk this year by about 30 percent.
The manager of one high-end banquet restaurant on Yuetan Street who did not want to be quoted directly says business has been so bad that he has had to switch to serving Japanese Teppanyaki, a style of cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food, and rent out the upper floor of his establishment.
Such economic strains, while painful, are a good thing, says economist Hu Xingdou, because over-reliance on such government expenditures creates a false economy.
Hu says China’s administrative costs are huge and that according to official statistics, 25 percent of the government’s revenues are spent on administrative expenses.
“Some scholars think it is more around 35 percent, and there are those who even think it is fifty percent,” Hu says. “So half of public spending, or about half of it goes to pay government expenses.”
The public seems pleased with the changes. One man surnamed Li, who works in a restaurant, says that while his business is hurting, overall the effort to cut down on waste is a good thing and it seems to be making progress in the cities.
However, more focus on waste at the local level is needed, he adds.
“There is so much corruption there, for example a corrupt village head in the countryside can get hundreds of thousands and even millions of Chinese yuan,” Li says.
More Oversight

One way the government is looking to crack down on corrupt local officials is by allowing more transparency of local and central government budgets. Reining in spending and having a clearer sense of how funds are spent will do more than help limit waste, says He Bing.

“If you know how they spend money then you can not easily control the waste that is spent on banquets, but the power of officials as well,” He says. “It is the abuse of power and lack of control that leads to the misuse of funds.”

But even with these changes, more independent supervision is still needed, says Hu Xingdou.

“Because the government cannot initiate any political reform, it is very difficult to reform the anti-corruption system. It is very hard to have independent organs monitor the corrupt behavior [of party officials]. It is hard to have real freedom of the press, and it is also hard to have asset disclosure [laws].”
For all of the scrutiny that President Xi Jinping has brought to corruption, analysts note that the government has limited public oversight by tightening restrictions on freedom of expression. New rules that carry hefty punishments for spreading information online chill public oversight. Analysts say that loosening these restrictions would allow the public to play a bigger role in keeping officials in check.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs