China’s House Cleaning is Just Skin Deep – Mark O’Neill
Following the arrests of several prominent political figures over the past year — including Shanghai Party Chief Chen Liangyu, the head of the State Statistical Bureau, the vice mayor of Beijing, and Zheng Xiaoyu, director of the Food and Drug Administration, who was sentenced to death for corruption — Asia Sentinel asks if the crackdown is just show before the 17th Party Congress:
There are periodic anticorruption campaigns in China, usually resulting in the jailing of petty officials. In the early part of the decade, for instance, the government arrested as many as 30,000 officials over a three-year period. More than 4,000 were ultimately charged with bribery, another 8,000 were said to have broken regulations on holding government positions at the same time they held corporate jobs, and 1,000 used state-owned vehicles improperly.
To the outside world, the campaign appears dramatic, especially ahead of the congress, which is held every five years. And while the current sentences are dramatic indeed, they attract seemingly little interest from the Chinese public, who see the convicted as losers in a political power struggle rather than officials who have broken the law.
…Scholars have made many proposals to address the issue – higher wages for civil servants to make them less vulnerable to bribes, fewer restrictions on the media to let them act as watchdogs, and a judicial system that is more independent and implements laws and regulations fairly.
But in these areas Hu has shown himself a conservative. Press freedom and civil rights have diminished during his administration. The government remains as secretive as ever, with, for example, details of the sale of public land not made public.
This leaves the public with no way to keep track officials and the dealings, since they know so little of the workings of government. The fight against corruption, like everything else involving power and the party, is an internal affair. [Full text]