Rule of Law

Without corruption, some ask, can the Chinese Communist Party function?

Has President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign accelerated China’s economic slowdown? Some say officials are “engaged in a test of will” with Xi, delaying decisions that would promote growth to avoid risks and to punish Xi for taking “away their cheese without offering anything in return.” The Washington Post reports.

Although Xi’s current campaign to curb corruption may eventually improve China’s economy, rendering it more efficient and less expensive for business, the Washington Post reports, it also appears to have prompted bewilderment on the part of officials and developers who “don’t trust a clean system”. Younger Party officials – cleaner and more loyal to the current government – may hold the key to future growth. Li Yongzhong, a senior researcher and deputy dean of the China Discipline Inspection and Supervision College, says, even so, the effect will not be long lasting. A completely clean political system is not possible, he says.

“It’s a consequence of China implanting the Soviet system, with a concentration of power, and officials being appointed by their supervisors rather than elected. Without reform of the system, appointing new officials can only treat the symptoms. It won’t make any fundamental difference.”

By Simon Denyer for the Washington Post

As China moves into the third year of its far-reaching anti-corruption campaign, experts and officials are worrying that without the grease of bribes, projects are stagnating and the economy is taking a hit.

Across China, more than 100,000 officials have been disciplined since President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive began, according to the government’s own figures. As a result, many others are sitting on their hands, delaying decisions and failing to grant approvals for investment projects, either out of fear that they could be caught up in a future corruption probe, or because, without a bribe, they simply lack any incentive to act.

The problem has become so severe it is ringing alarm bells at the top levels of government.

On Monday, Premier Li Keqiang demanded that local officials sign a written pledge to carry out major economic and social policies faithfully, saying that their dereliction of duty had slowed the economy, according to state media. Some officials, he said, were “taking a wait-and-see attitude, being reluctant to implement major policies of the central government,” China Daily reported.

Ren Jianming, a professor of clean governance at Beihang University in Beijing, said officials were not used to a system that ran without corruption.

 “Developers don’t believe that, without bribing, they would get a project, and officials don’t believe that, without bribing, they could be promoted,” he said. “They don’t trust a clean system.

“Officials have stopped or delayed making decisions to avoid risks. Even if they don’t take a bribe now, they might be suspected or reported. Then their previous corruption would be found out.”

Graft has certainly not gone away, but the anti-corruption campaign has taken a toll on the sales of luxury goods and on business at high-end restaurants and hotels. Some karaoke bars, where officials were softened up with alcohol and women, have closed their doors; the former Portuguese enclave of Macao has been hit hard by a sharp decline in gambling revenues, the mainstay of its economy.

Continue reading at the publisher’s website here

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