News / Asia

Analysts: China Corruption Crackdown Lacks Independence

China Crackdown Limits Waste but Lacks Independencei
X
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
William Ide
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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More