Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Cleaning up corruption or getting your share?

Andrew Jacobs, writing in The New York Times, thinks he has spotted a new anti-corruption trend linked to the new leadership in China. An alternate, more skeptical interpretation, could be that the new guys want to make sure that they get a bigger share of the opportunities to play the system.

Chinese Officials Find Misbehavior Now Carries Cost
These have been especially nerve-racking times for Chinese officials who cheat, steal and bribe…

In the weeks since the Communist Party elevated a new slate of top leaders, the state media, often fed by freelance vigilantes, have been serving up a head-spinning collection of scandals…

“The anticorruption storm has begun,” People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece, wrote on its Web site this month.

The flurry of revelations suggests that members of China’s new leadership may be more serious than their predecessors about trying to tame the cronyism, bribery and debauchery that afflict state-run companies and local governments, right down to the outwardly dowdy neighborhood committees that oversee sanitation…

Zhu Ruifeng
“Something has shifted,” said Zhu Ruifeng, a Beijing journalist who has exposed more than a hundred cases of alleged corruption on his Web site…

Critics say members of the party elite fear that any far-reaching crackdown might hit too close to home, given how many of their relatives have profited from the proximity to power. Immediate family members of Wen Jiabao, China’s departing prime minister, have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion, The New York Times revealed in October, even as he projected an image of frugality…

Already, the state media have begun to urge caution, and one newspaper editor in Beijing said propaganda officials had been seeking to impose some restrictions on exposés. And experts note that Chinese leaders have so far refused to even consider the key ingredients needed to root out corruption: governmental transparency, a system of checks and balances, a free press and an independent judiciary.

“Without effective institutions,” said Li Xinde, who runs a Web site that exposes corrupt officials, “anticorruption campaigns can just become a tool for settling scores.”

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