Wen: Corruption “Most Crucial Threat”

Premier Wen Jiabao stressed on Monday that the government must weed out corruption in its ranks, a campaign that may include publicizing the assets of some officials. From The China Daily:

“Corruption is the most crucial threat to the ruling party,” Wen said at the State Council’s annual conference on anti-corruption work, adding that corruption may completely undermine the country’s political foundations if not handled properly.

Despite taking consistent measures to fight corruption in previous years, Wen conceded that the overall performance of the government and officials has yet to meet the public’s expectations.

“Corruption tends to occur frequently in departments that possess great power and in areas where the management of funds is centralized. Corruption cases involving State-owned enterprises and high-level officials are still serious,” Wen said.

The country has not worked out a timetable or any details of the assets declaration policy. If the policy is carried out in the future, Wen said, it will be made public “within a certain range”.

Wen also pledged to ban the use of public funds to purchase cigarettes and “high end” alcohol, according to Bloomberg. The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report interviews China scholar Andrew Wedman, author of “Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China,” about China’s experience with corruption and its implications for future development:

Has corruption stimulated China’s growth?

Far from stimulating rapid growth, corruption in China feeds off rapid growth. In essence, corrupt officials are stripping off a share of the profits created by reform.

In some sense, this may give them incentives to support economic reform, but I think the political drive to reform and marketize China’s economy does not come from officials’ lust for corrupt income.

But in the long term, most experts think graft will weaken China’s economy – what’s the doomsday scenario?

In the long term, graft will harm the Chinese economy — we can readily see the harmful effects. If the Chinese Communist Party fails to check corruption it could begin to undermine the health of the Chinese economy.

But I am not sure there is a “doomsday scenario.” Amidst all the hype about corruption gone wild in China, it is often forgotten that even though it is worse than the global average, it is not a level on a par with what we might call crisis corruption.

My sense is that if corruption were not controlled then it would begin to become more of a drag on growth rates, particularly as the extent of asset transfers decrease and overall growth rates slow. But corruption alone would not push the economy into collapse.

March 26, 2012 9:46 PM
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Categories: Law, Politics, Society