Need for over­sight

Ef­fec­tive su­per­vi­sion is key to en­sure those with power do not abuse it.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - WANG RUOLEI

The 18th Party Congress em­pha­sized to an un­prece­dented ex­tent the im­por­tance of fight­ing cor­rup­tion. The con­clud­ing re­port pointed out that, “the prob­lem (of cor­rup­tion), if not well solved, might cause fa­tal dam­age to the Party, even lead to its down­fall”.

An anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign was launched soon af­ter the congress, and the fall of sev­eral min­is­te­ri­al­level of­fi­cials, some of whom were in­ves­ti­gated af­ter tip-offs from the pub­lic, has raised ex­pec­ta­tions of cleaner of­fi­cial­dom.

How­ever, the ques­tion of how to strike cor­rup­tion at the root re­mains to be an­swered. Fight­ing cor­rup­tion has been a task for prob­a­bly ev­ery dy­nasty since the first cen­tral­ized state was founded in China more than 2,000 years ago. The prob­lem has proved im­pos­si­ble to erad­i­cate. So what needs to be done if China is to root it out?

“Power cor­rupts; ab­so­lute power cor­rupts absolutely.” The fa­mous words of Bri­tish his­to­rian Lord Ac­ton re­veal the in­ter­re­la­tion of cor­rup­tion and power. Power is nec­es­sary in reg­u­lat­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of in­ter­ests and du­ties in hu­man so­ci­ety; but it is con­trolled by hu­mans who have their own in­ter­ests. With­out proper su­per­vi­sion those in­vested with power can all too eas­ily abuse it for their own self-in­ter­ests.

It is likely that cor­rup­tion has ex­isted in ev­ery regime through­out his­tory, so in a sense cor­rup­tion it­self is nor­mal. How­ever, if cor­rup­tion is found to have eroded mul­ti­ple parts of the State ap­pa­ra­tus and in­volved many of­fi­cials, there must be prob­lems with the sys­tem.

Such sys­temic cor­rup­tion is of­ten caused by de­fi­cien­cies in the de­sign of the power sys­tem, in which the lack of su­per­vi­sion in­dulges those with power who seek their own gains. If this is the case, it is im­per­a­tive to re­struc­ture the sys­tem so that power is su­per­vised.

The new lead­er­ship has re­al­ized this. At a meet­ing of the Party’s cor­rup­tion-buster, the CPC Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for Dis­ci­pline In­spec­tion, in Fe­bru­ary, Xi Jin­ping, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Party, promised to “shut power in the cage of the sys­tem”, and Wang Qis­han, who is in charge of the com­mis­sion, said in­no­va­tions of the sys­tem are re­quired to pre­vent cor­rup­tion.

Echo­ing their calls, peo­ple have pro­posed var­i­ous changes to the sys­tem, but th­ese have been mostly at the mi­cro-level and would only be able to par­tially solve the prob­lem. In or­der to ef­fec­tively com­bat the cor­rup­tion that ex­ists in the sys­tem, a top-level de­sign that in­cludes su­per­vi­sion and re­stric­tions on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of power is needed. To be ex­act, the only way to com­bat cor­rup­tion is to su­per­vise and con­trol the ex­er­cis­ing of power through­out the sys­tem, from top to bot­tom.

The net of su­per­vi­sion over power should be weaved of both ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal lines. Ver­ti­cally, in­di­vid­u­als in­vested with power must be se­lected through strict pro­cesses, their be­hav­ior must be su­per­vised, and they are re­spon­si­ble for what they do with their power.

Hor­i­zon­tally, power should be di­vided into dif­fer­ent parts that can su­per­vise and limit each other; and ex­ter­nal forces, such as the pub­lic, the me­dia and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions, should have the right to su­per­vise power against any pos­si­ble mis­use. To make sure the su­per­vi­sion from ex­ter­nal forces can be ef­fec­tive, power must be im­ple­mented in a trans­par­ent way, while the su­per­vis­ing bod­ies must be in­de­pen­dent.

This net of su­per­vi­sion will su­per­vise power in all its pro­cesses, thus pre­vent­ing it be­ing abused for il­le­gal in­ter­ests. The whole net must con­sist of dif­fer­ent parts, so that if one part fails the other parts can still be ef­fec­tive. Some ar­gue this might lower the ef­fi­ciency of the sys­tem, but ac­tu­ally it is cor­rup­tion that poses the most harm to ef­fi­ciency and hurts jus­tice in the long run.

Rule of law is a nec­es­sary pre­req­ui­site to weav­ing the net of su­per­vi­sion. The 18th Party Congress also high­lighted this point in its con­clud­ing re­port say­ing, “no in­di­vid­ual or or­ga­ni­za­tion shall have any priv­i­lege over the con­sti­tu­tion and the laws.”

Un­der the rule of man, of­fi­cials en­joy priv­i­lege over the laws, whether to pu­n­ish some­body is de­cided by their will, not the law. Un­der the rule of law, of­fi­cials will no longer be able to es­cape the penal­ties if they break the law. In one word, rule of law is an in­flex­i­ble sys­tem that does not dis­tin­guish be­tween dif­fer­ent law­break­ers, while rule of man of­ten im­ple­ments laws se­lec­tively based on who breaks them.

China has pun­ished many cor­rupt of­fi­cials over the decades, but still cor­rup­tion is get­ting worse; one rea­son for this is se­lec­tive ju­di­ciary has dis­pelled the peo­ple’s, as well as of­fi­cials’, trust in the law.

The first step to­ward rule of law should be win­ning back the peo­ple’s trust in the sys­tem; that needs co­op­er­a­tion from both within and with­out. The au­thor­i­ties should be just and trans­par­ent in en­forc­ing the law, while the me­dia and the pub­lic should par­tic­i­pate in su­per­vis­ing of­fi­cials. Only with the joint ef­forts of all can an in­flex­i­ble, trust­wor­thy sys­tem be es­tab­lished that will be ef­fec­tive against cor­rup­tion in the long run. The Chi­nese ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle first ap­peared on Study Times.

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