Fight­ing cor­rup­tion key to im­prov­ing gov­er­nance

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

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.


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