Winning the people’s long-term trust
The investigation into Zhou Yongkang, one of the most senior officials in China to come under scrutiny in modern times, shows the world that the leadership headed by President Xi Jinping is determined to rid the Party and government at all levels of corrupt officials.
Coming fast on the heels of the announcement a month ago of the expulsion of Xu Caihou, a retired top military officer, from the Party, the timing of the announcement of the investigation against Zhou is no coincidence. It provides a powerful example at the same time as it was revealed that the Party will focus on the rule of lawin the October Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee.
It indicates that the rule of law and the upholding of the lawwill be the basis of the anti-corruption campaign. Recently it was noted the many officials have also been disciplined for poor moral behaviour, including adultery. This takes the high standards to levels beyond those deemed acceptable in many Western countries, where political leaders having affairs can add to their attractiveness in the eyes of some voters and government officials’ private lives are considered separate from their work.
Indeed more than 30 officials of minister level and above have been taken down and more are expected to come. Some observers wonder if this will tarnish the Party’s image and deprive the country of some very able and experienced officials.
In fact even the 30-plus high profile corruption cases represent a very small proportion of the group of officials that help lead China at national and local levels. And there is plenty of emerging talent that can be given an opportunity.
In the short-term, the image of Chinese government and Party officials may be tarnished by the revelations and, although the general public will be pleased to see such strong action being taken, anger will also be aroused at the extent of corruption that is now being revealed.
Yet, President Xi is to be congratulated for not letting any short-term reactions deter him from his goal of ridding the country of corruption in government positions regardless of how high the official’s position – it is the only way that the Party can win the trust of the people in the longer term. Colin Speakman is an economist and director of China Programs at CAPA International Education, a US-UK organization that cooperates with Capital Normal University and Shanghai International Studies University.