Next stage in graft fight

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

THE SUC­CES­SIVE MOVES TO FIGHT COR­RUP­TION and ex­trav­a­gance are cred­i­ble signs that Chi­nese lead­ers want sub­stan­tial changes in of­fi­cial­dom.

The ini­tia­tive to “stan­dard­ize” lead­ing of­fi­cials’ use of pub­lic hous­ing and ve­hi­cles is the lat­est fol­low-up to the eight rules Party leader Xi Jin­ping and his col­leagues put for­ward dur­ing their first days in of­fice.

Their call for style changes and pro­hibit­ing waste and ex­trav­a­gance has re­sulted in a de facto de­cline in the “high end” cater­ing in­dus­try. In spite of re­ports about of­fi­cials shift­ing into “stealth mode”, many lux­ury eater­ies, which re­lied heav­ily on ex­pen­sive banquets fi­nanced by pub­lic money, are now hav­ing to woo or­di­nary din­ers to sur­vive.

The new pro­posal to reg­u­late of­fi­cials’ use of pub­lic ve­hi­cles and hous­ing has seen a swift re­sponse in the prov­inces.

Cen­tral China’s Hubei prov­ince, for one, has re­port­edly taken back 712 units of hous­ing pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied by of­fi­cials in vi­o­la­tion of rules, as well as more than 1,000 ve­hi­cles. And that was re­port­edly just the “first-stage”.

At present the move is tar­geted specif­i­cally at the res­i­dences of­fi­cials have been as­signed while work­ing in dif­fer­ent lo­cal­i­ties and on dif­fer­ent jobs. But, even so, a truth­ful ac­count of the sit­u­a­tion may still prove stun­ning, be­cause this has been an un­der-reg­u­lated gray area for too long.

The pro­posed of­fi­cial res­i­dence mech­a­nism, which is yet to be fi­nal­ized, may put an end to many of to­day’s trou­bles. But be­fore that, the Party’s dis­ci­plinary ap­pa­ra­tus will have to over­come tremen­dous re­sis­tance to ob­tain a clear pic­ture of who has what. Af­ter all, this chal­lenges a true vested in­ter­est.

The Party’s cen­tral dis­ci­plinary watch­dog said that through such spe­cial ac­tions it wants to grad­u­ally elim­i­nate the ex­ces­sive priv­i­leges ex­tended to pub­lic ser­vants. Which is in line with first deal­ing with the out­ward symp­toms of cor­rup­tion.

In a Jan­uary speech, Wang Qis­han, the Party’s top cor­rup­tion buster, stated that by treat­ing the symp­toms now, the Party is buy­ing time to treat the root causes.

For the gen­eral pub­lic, each of the re­cent moves, from ban­ning ex­pen­sive of­fi­cial banquets to reg­u­lat­ing the use of pub­lic hous­ing and ve­hi­cles, needs to be seen to be mak­ing a tan­gi­ble and mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence.

The only ques­tion they have is: How long moves last?

Wang prom­ises the mo­men­tum will not ebb, it will be sus­tained “one stage af­ter another”.

That is ex­actly what peo­ple want to see.

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