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Corruption in China and the Combat Teeth of the System(Volume 2)

Approach and Predicaments of Corruptions

In simple term, all forms of corruptions in China fall in the bracket of “misuse of public office for private gains”. It could be individual and/ or organized. While there are quite a large number of literatures and yet, it is hard to present an archetype to explain trade off in Chinese office bearers at all levels getting berserk with such a terrifying magnitude to misuse their public office for private gains. In a theoretical perspective, it can be construed as balancing act, where the individual and/ or group weighs perceived total cost of the said corrupt act against the perceived total gains. Increased chances of getting caught despite all plausible Neutralization of all shades of political, social and cultural hedging and being put to due process of law could possibly work as deterrence. The conceptual part of the Chinese approach to combat corruption, developed and pursued in the past couples of years, visibly draws on the address of the Chinese President Hu Jintao to the Fifth Session of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on 12th Jan 2005. Hu spelled out the need for both “temporary solution and permanent cure”; laid down the focus of the action on “leading officials who pursued individual, illegal interests by misusing their powers”; and, outlined three pronged approach of “promoting education, actualizing institutional accountability and invoking civil monitoring” as an antidote to ills. He expected the approach to the problem as such would ultimately succeed in “gradually removing the soil that generates corruption”. Seen in its perspective, it goes to serve the conceptual side of the Chinese approach. In the same vein, the operational part of the Chinese approach to combat corruption draws on the address of the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to the Regional Seminar on Corruption in April 2007, where he impressed upon the need to launch “three prong attacks”. They are: (a) addressing institutional deficiencies; (b) promoting reforms in political management; and, (c) using education and punishment to handle miscreants. Where it related to institutional deficiencies, Wen identified as many as four grey areas-excessive concentrations of powers, lack of effective checks and oversights, obsoleteness of the system and obsession for government approval. Wen outlined four sets of reforms in the political management, which sought to address one or the other four institutional deficiencies. He accordingly prescribed diffusion of hitherto existing concentration of power, enhancing public supervision and making all decisions in open, fare and just manners. In handling miscreants, Wen asked for using both education and punishment as a tool. Corruption is the PRC is incidentally taking place in the broad backdrop of “booming economy and rampant materialism”, where the ability of the concerned officer to exploit connections and networks (Guanxi) under the dual-track (shuangguizhi) economic system holds the key to success. In a business firm, it was essential even for getting timely and adequate quantum of support resources such as electricity and water as well as raw materials and intermediate goods. This Guanxi has whole set of sociological rational and provides untold cultural acceptance for corrupt practices with a certain amount of winks and nods. In this scenario, it is a matter of academic speculation much less studied inference as to how much the Chinese approach would withstand the counter weight of interests behind the administrative, business and political corruptions in China.

Efficacy of the Combat Mechanism

The concerns of the Chinese leadership on the rise of corruption in all walks of life have of late found manifestation in the form of multi-dimensional initiatives to add muscles to combat mechanism. With quite a few caveats, they veer round both “curative” and “preventive” domains. With open ended goals to deal with inter-department overlaps, and consequent possibilities of corrupt practices finding ways, the First Session of the 11th NPC deliberated and approved five Super Ministries in March 2008. Earlier in September 2007, the PRC had set up National Bureau of Corruption Prevention (NBCP) with mandate to circumvent local and report straight to the central authorities. It has been placed under the command and control of Ma Wen, who holds simultaneously the charge of Minister for Supervision. It has since been working on a guideline for “corruption prevention for companies and public undertakings, help trade organizations develop a self-discipline system, put forward policies guarding against commercial bribery and initiate publicity campaigns on corruption prevention”. One of the major tasks of NBCO, as stated by Ma Wen in her interview with Xinhua News Agency, is to “expand preventive network to every corner of the Chinese society. In the PRC, the age old police body, in charge of prosecutions, is the People’s Procuratorate, from the top level of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, to the Provincial People’s Procuratorate, the Municipal Procuratorate and the County Procuratorate. The procurator organization consists of over 3,600 Procuratorate with more than 220,000 procurators and support staff throughout the country. Investigation of corruption cases constitute one of the several duties related with law enforcements. In November 1995, the Chinese Supreme Procuratorate came to set up General Bureau against Corruption (GBAC). In prosecuting malfeasance at various levels in the bureaucracy, the Chinese Procuratorate normally concentrate on the preventive aspect. It keeps on looking at new ideas and at new channels of crime in order to formulate a more effective approach. The targets are: to develop preventive measures; to develop knowledge of the law; and to build up the concept of intellectual and moral resistance to corruption. As the party cadres hold the key to the nature and character of governance, there is CCDI, entrusted with the task of looking into and dealing with the corruption and malfeasance among officials. It is directly responsible to the CPC National Congress and on the same level, the Central Committee. At the Provincial/ Autonomous Region/Municipality level, there is then Discipline Inspection and Supervision department at work. Of late, one of the initiatives of the CCDI to address the phenomenon at party cadre as much as general populace levels included inviting people’s opinion on website. It crashed on the very day it was set up on January 4, 2006. The Chinese leadership has tried its hands to curb and/ or eliminate the malaise with little avail so far in many other ways. In April 2008, the CPC Central Committee launched a 5 year anti-corruption campaign. In May 2008, it launched another campaign, exhorting cadres to “be the people’s loyal guard and masses close friend”. Subsequently, He Guoqiang, the Secretary of the CCDI and Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong took two separate initiatives in September 2008 to involve students at large in the campaign.

Future Prospects

The thoughts and actions thus gone into combating the malaise of corruptions of all hues are tremendous. However, the trap is some how intractable. The approach and mechanism in place do not promise substantial results as long as the political corruptions, in particular the one that springs straight from the dogged will of the Chinese leadership at all levels to continue in the saddle, go scot-free. A perceptible difference could come about as soon as the Chinese leadership rise above and undertake change in political structure; augur social developments that go to find substitute to guanxi (working through contacts and networks) to professional consideration in all sets of critical decisions in governance; and, the Deng’s aphorism of shishi quiushi ( seeking truth from the facts) come to play pivotal role in political reform as it hitherto did in economic reforms. As it is China’s combat mechanism to all pervading corruption is struck with a lot contradictions. In some cases the institutions supposed to ensure probity work under the command and control of the same structure and deviants. Where the new outfit goes to circumvent them, the matrix of interests to remain in power does not promise much escape. The phenomenon will perhaps remain theoretically intractable as long as the total cost of getting caught and exposed do not exceed the total benefit of breaking the cardinal principle of remaining transparent and honest. It could perhaps have negative impacts on China’s so far robust comprehensive national power. ( concluded)

((The writer, Dr Sheo Nandan Pandey, is a China analyst based in Faridabad,India. He had held advisory positions in the ministries of Defence and Human Resources Development of the Government of India. Views expressed in the article are his own).

Resources China Daily, Jan 12, 2005 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-1/12/content_408095.htm Xinhua News Agency, March 14, 2008 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-09/19/content_6117751.htm China set up NBCP as follow up to the UN convention, adopted at the 58th Session of the UN General Assembly in 2003. http://www.china daily.com.cn/china/2008-09/23/content_7052881.htm; http://en.ce.cn/National/Education/2008925_16913793.stml

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