China’s anti-corruption plan doomed by one-party system

The Chinese Communist Party has issued an ambitious six-point plan for tackling rampant official corruption in its ranks in 2004, but a former high-ranking Party official says its efforts are doomed to failure without political reform, RFA’s Mandarin service reports.

The Chinese Communist Party Central Commission for Discipline Inspection published a bulletin earlier this week, outlining its plans to investigate and handle major corruption cases. Priority would be given to cases involving top officials at or above county level involved in corrupt activities, the statement said.

“Where do the roots of China’s corruption problem lie? With the single party system, with the fact that there is no democracy,” Bao Tong, former Party Central Committee member, told RFA. “They talk about attacking both roots and surface, but the problem is that every single case they deal with is attacking the surface, not the roots.”

According to the statement, the commission will focus on cases involving construction projects, transfer of land-use rights, the financial sector, and on cases involving restructuring and regrouping of state-owned enterprises that result in asset impairment losses. It will also target law enforcement officers.

Bao – who is a former close aide to the disgraced Party chief Zhao Ziyang – expressed strong skepticism that the Party would be able to turn around its appalling record of official corruption. “Never mind about the new cases. Can you solve the problem of the existing cases?” he said.

“If the country can’t even cope with the surface layer of problems that have already cropped up in the past, how is it going to succeed in preventing future problems? I don’t think they’ll be able to,” Bao said. “I wish they could apply the spirit of these regulations to the existing cases.”

He said that while Chinese leaders basically understood the extent of corruption in the country, without a solution that changes the problem’s non-democratic roots, corruption would continue. “It will continue to grow, and proliferate, and create even more corruption,” Bao predicted.

Shenzhen-based dissident Miao Xike said part of the problem was that nearly all officials had something to lose from anti-graft investigations. “It all sounds very good. But when it comes down to implementing it, will they really be able to catch these officials of county-level and higher? There can only be a handful of clean officials left in the Chinese Communist Party,” he told RFA correspondent in Hong Kong, Yan Ming.

The anti-graft regulations are being propelled by the Party’s internal watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Organization Department of the Party Central Committee. These two bodies set up a joint office and inspection teams in August to further scrutinize the affairs of provincial Party and government leaders.

Wu Guanzheng, who heads the Commission for Discipline Inspection, vowed last year to set up an efficient and systematic anti-graft mechanism within the next few years, to ensure officials clean up their act.

The official People’s Daily newspaper estimated recently that U.S. $30 billion a year disappears from state coffers in China through the actions of fraudulent officials. Another estimate by a Chinese scholar put the amount at U.S.$157 billion over the past three years.

Last month, the disgraced former vice-governor of Anhui province in eastern China was sentenced to death last month for corruption while the vice governor of scandal-plagued Liaoning province was sacked recently.

Elsewhere, the deputy mayor of the southern metropolis of Shenzhen was thrown in jail.

China last month signed the UN Convention Against Corruption in a move aimed at repatriating billions of dollars in public funds that have been siphoned off overseas by corrupt Chinese officials.

Radio Free Asia, January 15, 2004

Categories: Asia, China, Corruption, Odious Debts

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