Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, December 29, 2008

And cash helps guanxi work

Mark Magnier describes in the Los Angeles Times the pervasive nature of corruption in China. This article includes a number of grassroots examples of charges of corruption, including an awful story of a middle school student whose parents complained openly about "fees" expected by the school. The student was tortured and killed. His parents believe their son was killed by his teachers.

(I have no explanation for Magnier's or the LA Times' old style spelling of Mao Zedong's name. He's not so old for that spelling to be a habit -- he graduated from Columbia in 1981.)

Corruption taints every facet of life in China

"Corruption is an everyday experience for millions of Chinese that taints not just schools, but relations in business, on farms and in factories, and potentially any contact citizens have with officialdom...

"Senior Communist Party officials know that decades of remarkable economic progress are at risk if graft and bribery stretch the chasm between the haves and have-nots too wide. But they have limited room to maneuver. Any meaningful effort to crack down endangers the party's monopoly on power.

"The system depends on legions of police, local party and government officials to enforce Beijing's policies and quash dissent. All too often, critics say, local officials regard their position as a license to steal.

"Throughout the country, the prodigious rate of economic growth has created a gold rush mentality. Absent both the strictures and the social safety network of Mao Tse-tung's rigid system, millions of people are seeking ways to prosper -- legally or illegally.

"Corruption accounts for an estimated 3% to 15% of a $7-trillion economy, and party membership can be an invitation to solicit bribes or cut illegal land deals...

"The result is a growing divide between those who benefit from corruption and their victims. It is at the grass-roots level where this chasm is most harshly felt..."

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