Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, April 08, 2013

Reducing Ostentation/Increasing Legitimacy, to a point

PLA license plate
During the height of the Cultural Revolution it was difficult for outsiders to distinguish between officers and enlisted soldiers. Their uniforms were nearly identical. Officers could sometimes be identified only by a ball point pen in a pocket or a watch on a wrist.

Nowadays, even low ranking officers seem to get around in "black Audi sedans with tinted windows" and a driver.

Will the policy changes bring about a reduction in corruption or only the appearance of corruption? Will it make the PLA and the Communist Party more legitimate? And, why keep citizens from participating in the anti-corruption process?

China curbs military’s luxury cars
License plates are the latest casualty in the highly publicized anti-corruption campaign of China’s new leaders.

First the lavish government banquets were cut, then government officials’ red-carpet receptions.

Now the target is military plates — long coveted items among government officials, allowing their owners to skirt traffic laws with impunity and skip toll fees.

PLA (air force) plate on a Jaguar
Under a new policy taking effect May 1, such plates will be more tightly controlled to crack down on officials who abuse them or hand them out as perks for privileged associates. In addition, military license plates will be banned outright for use on luxury cars such as Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, Cadillacs and Jaguars, officials said.

For years, the sight of such cars with military plates has angered many Chinese, who regard them as one of the more blatant signs of government corruption…

The license plate crackdown is just the latest in a series of moves by China’s new president, Xi Jinping, aimed at reducing ostentation and corruption in government to soften growing resentment, anger and disillusionment toward the ruling Communist Party. Critics, however, remain doubtful that the flood of new policies and publicity will result in fundamental, long-lasting changes to China’s culture of corruption…

In one interview with state-run Xinhua News Agency on Sunday, Xiang Yang, director of traffic and transportation logistics for the Chinese Air Force, called the new policy a “severe test” for the military, acknowledging that it was initiated in part because of public pressure.

He called the new era of Internet scrutiny of public officials a double-edged sword. It has helped in some ways, he said, “but also hurt the image and reputation of the military.”…

Arrests in China Show Limits of War on Graft
China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, remains something of a mystery, but he has made one element of his agenda abundantly clear: The government will no longer tolerate the rampant corruption that he says is threatening the Communist Party’s grip on power.

But President Xi’s apparent war on graft has limits, at least judging by the detention on Sunday of four activists after they unfurled banners in central Beijing expressing support for the party’s self-described war on official malfeasance...

Although it is unlikely that Mr. Xi and other top leaders were aware of the protest, rights advocates say the detentions, coupled with the recent harassment of other people fighting corruption, are a worrying sign that the leadership is determined to constrain any populist campaigning on an issue central to the president’s agenda.

A petition calling for senior leaders to disclose their wealth publicly has been largely scrubbed from the Internet in China, and a number of citizen activists across the country have been detained in recent weeks for trying to collect signatures or for staging similar demonstrations against graft...

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At 8:45 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Chinese official sacked after 'citizen journalists' expose extravagant banquet

Zhang Aihua did what he could to appease the outraged mob that burst into his private party, shocked as they were to witness tables strewn with rare Yangtze river fish and imported wine. He knelt on a table, picked up a loudhailer, and begged for forgiveness.

As the Communist party boss of an industrial zone in Taizhou City, in the south-east of Jiangsu province, Zhang probably knew that this revelation of official profligacy would cost him his job…

When Zhang was fired on Monday, he became the latest victim of president Xi Jinping's frugality and anti-corruption drive – an effort fuelled in no small part by an exasperated public set on exposing the country's extreme wealth gap with mobile phone cameras and microblogs…

Since Xi launched his anti-corruption drive in November, scores of officials have been sacked for malfeasance, sales of luxury goods have plummeted nationwide and high-end restaurants have reported dismal returns. Yet some analysts say that the drive has simply pushed lavish official banquets and venal gift-giving underground.

Steve Tsang, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Nottingham, said that the central government may only tolerate the breed of citizen journalism that took down Zhang as long as it dovetails with the party's priorities. "I think if and when they are seen as crossing a line, and are focused on challenging the party, or party rule, that would be a different matter," he said. "I think the clampdown would be quite tight."


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