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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.