News / Asia

China Bolsters Corruption Crackdown

New Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping waves in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15, 2012.
New Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping waves in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15, 2012.
When Xi Jinping visited the southern city of Shenzhen last week, his first regional inspection since he was appointed as Communist Party's chief, Chinese media highlighted Xi's explicit orders not to lay down red carpets or prepare lavish banquets.

Analysts say this low-key approach is just part of an intensifying effort by China’s new leaders to crack down on one of the biggest sources of public discontent, official corruption. But how far Chinese officials are willing to go remains unclear.

“The question is what do we find behind those words, are they really trying to change or reform something or are they using these buzzwords to legitimize the status quo and to justify the use anti-corruption as a means to solve political conflicts in a non-violent, more or less civilized way,” Flora Sapio, is a professor of Chinese law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Anti-corruption declarations

China’s leaders have long talked about an urgent need to address corruption.

Xi Jinping, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have all talked about the threat corruption poses to the Communist Party and the state.

In 2007, Hu even likened corruption to “a time bomb buried under society.”

But perhaps the strongest remark came in the late 90s, when then premier Zhu Rongji remarked in comments about corruption: “I’ll have 100 coffins prepared. Ninety-nine are for corrupt officials and the last one is for myself.”

Despite these many pronouncements, corruption remains rampant.

According a 2007 study by Minxin Pei, director of the China Program at Washington D.C.’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10 percent of government spending in China is used for kickbacks and bribes, while less than three percent of corrupt officials end up being punished.

Tide changing, cyber sleuths

In recent weeks, however, news reports have detailed the launch of investigations and dismissal of a growing number of officials. In many cases, the details of their alleged illicit activities and abuses were first leaked through social media sites online.

Some believe this cycle of exposing official corruption on social media - which pressures officials to investigate and has led in some cases to dismissals - is a sign of progress.

Others warn of the dangers of citizens making public information that belongs in a court of law.

Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, says that the use of microblog sites such as China’s Twitter-like Weibo is more a reflection of a systematic lack of transparency in China.

“While the use of Weibo, the Internet and mistresses is the Chinese way of fighting corruption, it’s not a comprehensive approach,” Hu says. “The key is creating a more modern system of fighting corruption.”

Party monitors itself

In China, the power to investigate party officials is in the hands of a Communist party body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which exists at each level of government and has branches inside large state companies, as well.

When abuse of power is reported, the commission needs to get clearance from a senior party body before it can investigate the cadres' alleged wrongdoing.

“You have a party anti-corruption body that is monitoring, supervising, investigating and to a certain extent also punishing, and handling cases of corruption. So monitoring and supervision are strongly biased in favor of interior mechanism which are by definition not transparent,” Sapio says.

Emboldened by the leadership's recent calls to end corruption, many scholars in China are now making suggestions about how the system could be improved and other reforms that might strengthen supervision.

Sunshine law

One reform on the table is the establishment of a "sunshine law" that would require officials to disclose their assets.

Sapio says that a sunshine policy might help uncover minor forms of corruption, but notes that a number of factors might make it difficult to carry out.

“What happens if it is found out that you possess property in excess of your legitimate income? Would you automatically be criminally investigated? Would you be investigated by party bodies? Depending on the answer each of these questions will receive in the future an asset disclosure may help place a check on corruption, or alternatively it might just enable party bodies to have more information on party members,” she says.

On Sunday, just as Xi Jinping was touring Shenzhen, the southern province of Guangdong revealed plans to make officials' assets publicly available in three counties.

Hu Xingdou says it is still unclear how this will work. “In the past that has only meant that information would be disclosed internally. It does not mean that they will allow that information about assets to be made public in newspapers or on the Internet for people to see,” Hu says.

Since 2010, low-level officials have been required to disclose their assets to their superiors, but such reports are not released to the public.

An independent body

Ren Jianming, director of the anti-corruption and governance research center at Beijing's Tsinghua University, is one of the eight scholars who recently met with Wang Qishan, the newly appointed head of China’s anti-graft commission.

Ren says that during the meeting some specialists suggested improvement to the asset-disclosure system, but he added that those measures are not enough.

“We have to go more in depth and look at why the policies we had in place in the past did not stop corruption,” he says.

In Ren's view, past failures stemmed from a lack of independence in the commission's work.

“For an organ to be functioning it needs to be independent and it needs to have complete authority over its work and its finances, that is how it can have a beneficial effect into the body's monitoring system,” Ren says.

Looking to neighbors

Analysts say China is looking at its neighbors, including Singapore and Hong Kong, to shape a more effective anti-corruption system at home.

In Hong Kong's case, the government established a special commission in the 1970s, when the city-state was plagued by widespread corruption. The organ was given substantial funds and complete independence to carry out its investigations, which catapulted Hong Kong into the ranks of the world's cleanest governments.

But in China, where the Communist party exerts such broad control - of police, the courts and the government itself - empowering an independent body to monitor state officials is likely to be seen as threat to the party’s existence.

Some in China say that, although they trust the new leadership’s determination to push for change, making that happen may depend on more than strong-willed individuals.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Wangchuk from: NYC
December 14, 2012 10:32 AM
Corruption has plagued the CCP ever since it took power in 1949. Corruption helped bring down the Qing Dynasty & the ROC. Corruption will probably play a big part when the CCP falls. The problem is not just individuals, the system of one-party authoritarian rule. As long as the system exists, corruption will be endemic. Corruption costs China 10% of its GDP. Billions have been embezzled, stolen & misused by corrupt officials. It's time for a sea change in China.


by: Frank from: N.Y.
December 14, 2012 3:56 AM
"Wen Jiabao have accumulated more than $2.7 billion during his tenure as premier" (VOA). Chinese (Mainland) leaders must purify themselves before condemning their officials' corruption, otherwise they are just all hat and no cattle.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid