Is China Cracking Down on Corruption?

10 Apr

Earlier today, news broke out that China’s Former Rail minister Liu Zhijun has been charged allegations of corruption, and the abuse of power. Liu was once the man who spearheaded the Chinese bullet train, and oversaw the multi-billion pound project. However, the accumulation of $416.8 billion of debt from the rail network, and a 2011 crash which cost 40 lives, lead to a subsequent investigation into Liu’s private affairs. As a result of the investigation, Liu has been accused of taking substantial bribes when handing out contracts for the train network, and manipulating his government position to his personal financial gain to lead a “high living” lifestyle. Since his charges have surfaced, Mr. Liu has been the source of ridicule and criticism from both Chinese bloggers, and the state-controlled Chinese news network Xinhua. These charges have been a publicly announced as being a crucial part of the new leadership’s attempts to crack down on corruption.

Last year, the state controlled Global Times published an article headlined Fighting Corruption is a Crucial Battle for Chinese Society. The article, however, portrayed the Government’s crackdowns in an interesting light. It stated that:

“There is no way in any country to “root out” corruption. Most critical is containing it to a level acceptable to the public. And to do this is, for China, especially difficult…. China can’t conceivably be in a situation where it is a country behind in all other areas, but where its officials are really clean. Even if that were possible, it would not be sustainable.”

The report was evidently justifying corruption, but explaining that certain cases, corruption must not be tolerated. Moreover, in 2011, the People’s Republic of China claimed that between 16,000 and 18,000 public officials had fled China since the 1990s, and had swindled $120 billion between them. Unsurprisingly the report was subsequently deleted, by the information conscious leadership. The report, however, essentially highlighted the frequency of corruption within China; the majority of which goes unnoticed.

For example, I cannot help but compare Liu’s case to that of another case of corruption in China which was caught my attention in February. Zhenghou’s bus station was originally a state run business. However, last year it was privatised by Fan Jianhui, and run for Mr. Fan’s own private gains. Despite street protests and numerous complaints, no investigation has been made into the case.

Why then, has the case of Mr. Liu been treated with such a strong government fuelled response? Arguably, there are two reasons. Under the premise of corruption and ridicule China’s government has been able to divert any blame for the failure of the high speed rail network towards Liu. Moreover, as the government railway project was losing significant amounts of money Liu’s arrest constituted a viable basis for reconsidering the planning of the rail network.

Perhaps my scepticism over the inconsistencies of the Government’s attempts to tackle corruption has been unwarranted. Clearly, the new leadership has only just assumed power, and thus the extent of their crackdowns on corruption remain to be seen.

The new government may, indeed forcefully crack down on corruption in China amongst government officials in the future. However, the lack of transparency amongst the China’s leadership cannot go unnoticed whilst Chinese Great Firewall continues to block an overwhelming proportion of external information and media; and the State controlled domestic media continues to bends news stories to suits the Government’s interests. Perhaps the new leadership is also forgetting their recent detention of four anti-corruption activists, who were arrested on March 31st 2013 in extremely ironic circumstances? Ultimately, until substantial changes are made to the style of China’s leadership, how “un”-corrupt can China really be?



2 Responses to “Is China Cracking Down on Corruption?”

  1. Zoe Skousbo April 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    President Xi’s latest crackdown on corruption could easily have been another government attempt to rid its party of bad apples, punishing a few individuals who are obviously being used as scapegoats as countless more officials accept bribes and engage in illegal business practices. This newest crackdown however, is being touted as a serious attempt to clean up the Chinese governments act as a variety of sources, such as investment bank Nomura, declare the latest action as a serious attempt to correct the ills of many officials. The only way which corruption can be eradicated to its fullest extent is total political reform, which looks highly unlikely. The Independent Commission Against Corruption, based in Hong-Kong, estimates “open” corruption could be effectively eradicated in “2-3 years” which seems hugely optimistic, whereas ending the corruption within the bureaucracy could take a decade. To end this corruption, the culture of elaborate gift-giving needs to be halted as well as incessant bribery. On top of this, the government needs to provide much greater transparency on its budgets and assets, so officials can be brought to account over rampant spending or questionable income levels. If tackled properly, hugely reduced corruption would lead to greater stability and set an example for the increasingly concerned and politically aware public who are increasingly turning to demonstrations to voice their concerns over the luxurious and morally absent lifestyles of the Chinese elite.


  2. ab25g11 May 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    As described above the issue of corruption remain problematic throughout Chinese government; therefore it takes a lot of coverage to accuse senior officials. However Luo Changping a seasoned journalist has done just that. Waging a long and arduous campaign against Liu Tienan a top economic planning official, Changping has sought to expose the many illicit dealings of the high ranking bureaucrat. Mr Luo posted several detailed articles on Weibo (China’s twitter), which stated Lie Tienan and his family had profited from several illegal loans from Chinese banks. Furthermore the official was accused of lying about his education and sending death threats to a former Mistress. Eventually China’s anti-corruption agency announced it was investigating Liu Tienan and he had been fired from his position as the deputy head of China’s central National Development and Reform Commission. After his suspension other media outlets published additional reports on the politician’s unlawful actions.

    Although this shows how the individual can stand against the government this was one single official, the media is by no means free to report on whatever and whomever. Investigations of senior officials remain extremely rare, the journalist’s articles were only effective because the accusations tuned in with Xi Jingping’s current top-down campaign against corruption.

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