Fighting corruption key to improving governance
Comprehensive and strict management of the Party
AAsit K. Biswas, distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore t the ongoing Sixth Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, the Party is analyzing key issues for the comprehensive and proper management of the Party. Good and strict governance needs to begin with the Party itself. As an official statement notes: “IntraParty supervision is the basic and primary form of supervision, and only by pushing forward other forms of supervision alongside intra-Party supervision can we guarantee the comprehensive and strict management of the Party.”
In the less than four years since Xi Jinping became China’s top leader, China has made commendable progress and the country is now established as a global power. This was evident during the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in September. Xi’s proposals in 2013 for a Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road have already received considerable global interest and attention. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been established in a record time and at a much higher level than even its most ardent supporters expected. This is in spite of the fact that both the United States and Japan strongly objected to it for political reasons. And under Xi’s leadership, China has ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is expected to reduce its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60 to 65 percent between 2005 and 2030, a Herculean task under the best of the circumstances.
But while China has made remarkable social and economic advances over the past three decades, it has also been facing economic headwinds in recent years. Its economic growth rates have slowed, and a big challenge now is how to reenergize and reinvigorate the world’s second largest economy so that it does not fall into the dreaded middle income trap.
Not surprisingly, as the economy grew, corruption increased. Now the top leadership, headed by Xi, has made fighting corruption a central pillar for improving the governance of the country. The anti-corruption campaign has picked up steam.
The anti-corruption campaign has ensnared officials at all levels, from high-level officials to grassroots officials, both the so-called tigers and flies. For the first time very high-level Party figures such as former Security Chief Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, former CentralMilitary Commission Vice-Chairman Xu Caihou, Ling Jihua and Su Rong have been convicted of corruption. In addition, tens of thousands of middle and low level corrupt officials have been caught and punished. The prosecutions of the latter do not make national or international news, but as all Chinese and visitors to China have realized, corruption will no longer be tolerated.
This year’s plenum is likely to approve rules for good governance which must be followed by important Party institutions, and all cadres, including powerful members of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau. The rules of political conduct for Party members were drawn up during the era of Deng Xiaoping, and the rules of internal supervision of the Party were approved in 2003.
China will change even more over the next decade. Thus it requires new rules of governance, which need to be strictly implemented in a transparent manner.
The CPC has been in power for 67 years. Party chief Xi and the Party need to think for the long term. He needs to put the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation at the top of his political agenda so that by 2021, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Party, China becomes a moderately prosperous country. This can be achieved if the Sixth Plenum approves the new norms of good governance which would guide political life under changing conditions and will cover all government institutions and officials at every level. China widely seen as an example to emulate
TMartin Sieff, a senior fellow of the Global Policy Institute in Washington and the American University inMoscow here is no contesting the enormous scale and seriousness of China’s anti-corruption drive, but the coverage it has received in the United States is strikingly different from that in most of the rest of the world.
The tone of coverage in the US has largely been set – predictably – by TheWall Street Journal and The New York Times, and these bastions of theWall Street establishment have been predictably hostile.
They first dismissed the anticorruption campaign as cosmetic window dressing and not to be taken seriously. Then, when even US pundits had to admit the seriousness and moral commitment of the program, they claimed it would weaken the central government and local administrations throughout the country. Now these so-called experts are confronted with the clear evidence of thousands of malefactors being punished. So they have switched to a new line that the program will likely backfire and undermine China’s image and standing around the world and they suggest it is making the government weaker, not stronger. This line is not allowed to be seriously challenged and debated in the mainstream US media.
However, across Asia and Africa, the coverage has taken a very different form. In India, which suffers from endemic bureaucratic corruption and inefficiency, the media is covering the process closely with far less judgmentalism. Many of the reports are tinged with respect, and even envy.
In African media outlets, the tone of respect is accompanied by increasing fascination. The domestic economies of many sub-Saharan nations have enjoyed immense benefits from the unprecedented flood of Chinese investment in energy infrastructure and agriculture over the past 15 years. Now China is seen as an example to emulate in tackling the scourges of government incompetence and corruption that have been two of the greatest hindrances to growth and prosperity in the half century since these countries secured independence from colonial rule.
The idea that the anti-corruption campaign is somehow undermining China’s standing in the world is ludicrous. On the contrary, the campaign is boosting the image of China because it sets a positive and even inspiring example to so many countries whose populations and even government officials have despaired of making headway against such an endemic problem.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s dramatic repudiation of the United States as a military and economic role model and mentor during his state visit to China in the past week should be seen as a harbinger of more such dramatic statements and switches public standing by other global leaders in the coming months. It is no coincidence that Duterte is currently fighting the scourge of organized drug gangs and cartels and has been repeatedly chided by US President Barack Obama and his administration for doing so.
China has already risen to the status of a global economic power. It should come as no surprise that it is setting new examples and pioneering new solutions for some of the appalling problems that US economic and governmental practices have manifestly failed to master both at home and around the world. An inevitable and unavoidable task
TM. D. Nalapat, a professor of geopolitics at Manipal University, India rue, a series of corruption cases exposed could affect the ruling Party’s image. But the cases, as exposed in the China Central Television documentary series, The Corruption Fight is Always Underway, also reflect how determined China’s leadership is to end corruption. Only by resolutely fighting corruption can the Party and government improve governance.
Top leader Xi Jinping has initiated an excellent cleaning drive in the bureaucracy and shown exemplary courage in taking action against so many corrupt powerful figures. And there is little doubt that China is changing as a result of his vigorous moves.
Now President Xi Jinping has launched the Belt and Road Initiative, which when completed will change global geopolitics and create a larger market in Eurasia than the rest of the world combined. Xi understands that the plans that he has for China can only be completed in a situation where the administration is honest and effective.
Corruption leads to bad decisions; slower decisions, as officials wait for bribes before initiating action; and more expensive decisions. Given the scale of the transformational projects that President Xi Jinping is initiating, it is essential for success that those who are corrupt, no matter how high, even those in the military, be exposed and removed from authority. This is happening on an unprecedented scale in China because of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.
Across China, there is a sense that those who indulge in corrupt activities face a high risk of exposure. As a consequence, the volume of graft has gone down considerably.
Most important, those in leadership positions in big Stateowned enterprises who were corrupt have been replaced by others with a cleaner record. The good effects of such radical surgery on the administrative machinery will begin to show within a few years, as the influence of the new people begins to be seen.
Overall, China is poised for another push toward high growth and increased global relevance under Xi. In such a process, the war on corruption is inevitable and unavoidable.
There are officials in both China and India who are supergreedy. But in the two largest Asian countries, the salaries of government officials, especially at grassroots levels, are very low relative to the prices of goods and services, leaving room for corruption.
Just like India in the 1960s, the post-independence government sharply increased the powers of officials while sharply reducing their salaries. As a result, corruption increased.
Countries need to ensure the salaries of officials are at levels that provide them with a sense of security, thus prevent them from indulging in corruption but still they can live a reasonably comfortable life.
If the rule of law is improved, and laws are made simpler and realistic, China and India both will score highly on the honesty and transparency index. And only a comprehensive restructuring of the system and changes in laws can help eliminate corruption in the two countries.