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War on Corruption Not Yet Won

In early August, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC) decided to expel Cheng Weigao, former chairman of the Standing Committee of Hebei Provincial People's Congress, for taking advantage of his position. In addition, since the 16th National Congress of the CPC (held in November 2002), at least eight senior officials at provincial levels were sentenced or disciplined by the Party for corruption.


Li Xuezhong, an expert on corruption studies with a central authority, gave his insight into China’s corruption war since the Party congress during a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency.


“The 16th Party congress worked very hard on how to crackdown on corruption more effectively, providing some new guiding principles for the battle ahead,” Li said.


First, from the 12th to the 15th Party congress, it had kept on using the term “counter corruption”, while the 16th Party congress clearly addresses how to “fight and prevent corruption”. The appearance of the new word “prevent” signaled an important and strategic change in focus in its anti-corruption campaign.


Second, prior to the 16th Party congress, anti-corruption was defined as “a severe political struggle”. At the 16th Party congress, “firmly opposing and controlling corruption was specified as an important political task for the Party.” The anti-corruption endeavor thus became more significant.


Third, the 16th Party congress added two more -- institution and capability -- to its original list of Party ‘building’ tasks in terms of ideology, working style and organization. This shows the Party’s determination to eliminate corruption from the root.


During the interview, Li also pinpointed the changes in the corruption behaviors in China. Some corrupt officials have formed interest groups to guard their illegal practices, according to him. Such practices include large scale leasing trade deals; granting loans through abuse of power; income tax fraud; stock market dealing; smuggling and protection of smuggling; and taking advantage of key national project construction. In some places, corrupt officials have transferred their illicit gains by first sending their children, spouse and relatives abroad, and then fleeing themselves.


The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) recently formally ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which is a helpful step in the crackdown of absconded corrupt officials, said Li.


Some corrupt officials are getting more skillful and more deceptive. There are three main forms of corruption. One, optionalizing the power/money trade. Now, when making a deal with businessmen, corrupt officials prefer to get their money later. Just like depositing a large sum of money in the bank, they are patient enough to wait for their money plus interest even until their retirement. The second trick falls on the lending and transferring of their power. Officials don’t always take bribes by themselves, but often let their families make good use of their positions. The last and most important is to wash their ill-gotten gains clean or make a profit. By and large, they would like to set up companies and invest abroad so as to gradually become legal.


As virtue lifts a foot, vice raises ten. Corrupt officials are good at acting these days. Many corrupt officials successfully act as clean cadres in their daily life to mislead the public. Once exposed, they put up desperate resistance and refuse to surrender.


And last, but not least, it is worth noticing that the underworld is involved in corruption, which puts the work of anti-corruption in a more difficult situation.


(China.org.cn by Zheng Guihong, September 18, 2003)

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