Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Reform China

After 1989 Tiananmen Square event, the new Chinese leaders have giventhe priority to the anti-corruption work on their agenda and strengthened the anti-corruptionefforts. But up to now, the corruption phenomenon is still very rife , and presentlyis seen as the second greatest public concerns(behind unemployment )? The abilityor inability of “third generation” political leaders to successfully curb corruptionwill play a major role in their political survival.

This article will focus on theanalysis of the extent, forms and characters of corruption in current China, itscauses and effects, and the anti-corruption efforts of the Chinese Communist Partyand its government. 2 ?? The extent, forms and characteristics of corruption in current China ?? What is corruption? The notion of corruption varies with time and places. Accordingto Chinese official terminology , the core element of the definition of corruptionin current China is the notion of use of public power and public resources for privateinterests (‘Yi Quan Mu Si’ )?

This is a very broad definition, which can includea series of phenomenon and behaviours and vary with time. Consequently, it canbe adapted to include new forms of corrupt practice. Corruption in current Chinais often links with negative phenomenon and unhealthy tendency within party andgovernment departments. As a result , anti-corruption effort also includes fightagainst all of these phenomenon and behaviours. ?? This definition has three features.

First , the core element of corruptionis not ‘abuse’ or ‘misuse’ of public power via-a-via legal norms or social standardsfor private benefits but the very ‘use’ of public power for private benefits. Onthe one hand, this is a very strict standard for determining what behaviours canbe defined as corrupt since it can includes any behaviour utilising public powerfor private benefits. On the other hand , given that legal norms and moral standardsmay change with time, the definition may take some risks to exaggerate the extentof corruption or arbitrarily label some practice as corrupt.

Another feature of this definition is the ambiguous of the term ‘private interests’in contrast to “public interests” , i. e. the interests of whole nation and partyPrivate benefits include not only personal gains, but also the interests of workunits , departments and regions when they are given priority over public interests. ?? Third , the definition leaves open the question of which the subject of corruptionis.

It not only refers to individual public officials , but also can includes therelatives of public officials and retired public officials, and can also refersto some public bodies and their leaders (as legal rather than natural persons)? ?? As mentioned above, in official terminology, corruption , “negative phenomenon”and “unhealthy tendency” are linked together. Although government officials andthe public generally agree on some practices as “corrupt” , there are fewer consensuseson other practices.

Heidenheimer’s three-category classifications system providesa useful framework for understanding both the Chinese categories and the areas ofconsensus and lack of consensus. Heidenheimer’s framework includes three categories:(1 )? Class A or “black corruption”:The corrupt practices in this category,including graft , bribe, fraud, embezzlement , extortion, smuggling, tax evasion,etc. , Constitute an important part of “economic crimes”.

Because they are obviouslyillegal and the main purpose of those involved in these practice is to increasetheir personal wealth , government officials and the public generally agree thatsuch practices are corrupt. (2 )? Class B or “grey corruption” : The key characteristicsof this category, into which more and more practices are being categorised , isleaders of public institutions using their institutional power to increase the oftheir institutions and improve the welfare of their staffs through various legal,semi-legal and illegal ways.

Such practices includes public institutions makingprofits by engaging in business activities(such as public bank enter into the stockmarket, the bureau of environment protection selling environment protection facilitiesto their clients), setting up satellite companies , and imposing fines or collectingadministrative fees or charging the so-called ‘service fee’ and then putting theincome into their own coffers. Class B also includes such “unhealthy practices”as the extravagance and waste , e. g., spending public money to support luxuriouswork conditions and/or life style by senior officials. Such extravagance and wasteis manifested in many aspects : expensive entertainment, costly foreign cars forsenior officials, magnificent and tastefully furnished office buildings, domesticor foreign travel in the name of official business, etc. Such “unhealthy tendencies”and the associated corruption , both significantly increasing the public’s burden,have led to a significant public outcry. This has led Chinese authorities to attemptto stop these practices.

However they have met strong resistance from these publicinstitutions which, in turn, justify their practices in terms of the purpose oftheir practice, the legitimacy of their institutional power and the work requirement. (3 )? Class C: or “white corruption”: Class C practices constitute a kind of’common practice’ of social life. They include the nepotism and favouritism in thepersonnel recruitment and promotion , bending the law in favour of relatives andfriends in law enforcement, preferential treatment in resource-allocations forrelatives and friends , etc.

They are characterised by preferential treatment byofficials of relatives, friends, fellow-villager etc. much of which is, in fact,a way of reciprocating previously given favours. Such practices have penetratedwidely into public life , influencing the behaviour of government officials andordinary citizens as well , contributing to the operation and existence of networksof personal ties throughout China. Creating and maintaining the networks of personalties to seek and give favourable treatment is accepted by most people , includinggovernment officials, as a ‘normal’ practice when they involved in these practice.

However , such networks are condemned by those excluded from them although theywill not be hesitate to engage in such practice should they have an opportunityto do so. The late British China scholar Gordon White had also made a similar classification. 3 ?? Inasmuch as the Chinese authorities combine all the above categories togetherin their anti-corruption work , in this paper I will treat them all as corruption. However by so doing , the Chinese authorities have set a difficult goal for themselvessince the limited consensus on white corruption may increase the difficulty of attackingthese practices.

On the other hand, the labelling of some common practice falleninto the grey area from the white area and some common(“white” ) as “corruption”may help to delegitimize them and/or push them into the “grey” category , thuscontributing to anti-corruption and social and political progress. ?? The extent of corruption has increased dramatically and sharply since 1978 withthe situation becoming even worse after in the 1990s. This tendency is apparentfrom the data on perception of corruption in developing countries provided by TransparencyInternational and summarised in table.

The above table demonstrates a clear drop in the scores of corruption in Chinafrom until 1980 until 1995 reflecting the increase of corruption in China in thisperiod. The slight improvement is likely due to the strengthen of anti-corruptionefforts by the third generation political leadership and the deepening of market-orientedreform. But despite these slight improvements , the public and its deputies arestill very dissatisfied with the widespread corruption and the inadequate effortsat fighting corruption.

The vote of nearly forty per cent of the deputies in the1997 session of National People’s Congress against General procuratorators ZhangSiqing’s Annual work report is an indication of this dissatisfaction. ?? In the 1990’s , corruption has worsened and taken new characteristics withinthe above three categories:(1 )? Class A: corruption as a form of economiccrimes has increased with the following manifestations. First , the number of large-scalecorruption cases increased sharply.