Fighting China's corruption will take time and consideration

By Eugene Clark
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 17, 2014
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Reports from the Supreme People's Court (SPC) and the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) on Monday, March 10 to the second session of the 12th National People's Congress together with other discussions in the last week have focused on China's continuing battle against corruption and the determination to tackle this long standing issue.

What is clear is that while the situation has and continues to improve, corruption cannot be eliminated overnight and can never be entirely uprooted, in any country. Moreover, fighting corruption requires a multi-faceted approach that focuses on prevention as well as rigorous detection and enforcement.

 [By Jiao Haiyang/]

 [By Jiao Haiyang/]

Here is my checklist of some of the things that should be considered if China is to win the war against corruption.

Leadership. The academic literature on legal compliance stresses that compliance with the law must start at the top. If the top levels of leadership are committed to the highest ethical standards and have zero tolerance for corruption then everyone else will take notice. Government and business leaders must also select people to lead in senior and middle management who have the highest ethical standards. They must also weed out those who do not. Leaders must back up words with deeds that exemplify the type of ethical behavior they would advocate for others. Clearly President Xi has made a good beginning in doing this.

Checks and balances. Corruption and unchecked power go together. Accordingly, it is important for China, as part of its legislative, economic and administrative reforms, to design workable checks and balances against the abuse of power.

Rule of law and the role of soft law. China's leaders have also correctly been emphasizing the importance of the rule of law and the need to establish a well-designed legal framework underpinning its reform initiatives. Also important are soft laws -- guidelines, rules of conduct, interpretations, best practice frameworks -- laws that may not have the force of the state behind them, but which nevertheless can be highly influential and effective in nurturing good behavior and filling in the gaps to be found in every legislative framework, no matter how detailed.

Resources and dedicated public service. Efforts to redress corruption must also be properly resourced. These resources will include the development of a highly professional, competent and well paid administration that is dedicated to creating and upholding the highest levels of public service at all levels of government, from local to national.

This top level public service should focus on those matters that are strategic and important. Greater focus on China's anti-monopoly, tax evasion and procurement practices, for example, are important and strategic areas in combating corruption. It is thus commendable that the government is dedicated to leaving it to the market to decide the allocation of resources and it is dedicated to reducing the levels of bureaucracy and red-tape that have characterized much regulation. With fewer officials involved in trivial red tape, there will be less opportunity for corruption.

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