Netizen Voices: Furor Over “Moderate Corruption”

Simply acknowledging the corruption in Chinese government and society hasn’t gotten the Global Times very far. Its May 29 editorial “Fighting Corruption is a Crucial Battle for Chinese Society” misfired, and not just because it claimed “there is no way in any country to ‘root out’ corruption.” The popular web portal Tencent (also known as QQ), among others, carried the article with a new title: “China Must Allow Moderate Corruption; The Public Should Understand.” (See CDT’s earlier post, ‘Corruption: The Goldilocks Argument‘.)

The command to accept “moderate corruption” (适度腐败) caused an online uproar. Global Times Chief Editor Hu Xijin posted his reaction to the incident on his Sina Weibo account, accusing Tencent of purposefully and maliciously changing the original title. China Media Project translates:

HuXijin: The headline for yesterday’s Global Times editorial was, “Fighting Corruption is a Crucial Battle for Chinese Society.” In reposting the editorial, maliciously changed the headline to, “China Must Permit Some Corruption, the Public Should Understand,” misleading readers. The Global Times can be criticized, but if this sort of arm-twist editing is encouraged and imitated, this would be to the detriment of public opinion in China. I hope all web editors across the country to not err in opposing this way of doing things.

胡锡进: 环球时报昨天发社评,标题是“反腐败是中国社会发展的攻坚战”,腾讯网在转载文章时将标题恶意改成“要允许中国适度腐败,民众应理解”,误导读者阅读。对 环球时报可以批判,拍砖,但这种篡改术如果受到鼓励和效仿,将是中国舆论之大不幸。希望全国的网络编辑不论左右,都反对、远离这种做法。

Soon after Hu’s Weibo post appeared, Tencent revised the article’s title and publicly apologized:

HuXijin: Tencent has officially apologized for modifying the title of the Global Times editorial. When republishing articles, the original meaning must be respected. For no reason should the article be taken out of context. I hope this incident becomes an opportunity for all Chinese web and media editors to reach a consensus on such matters.


HuXijin: I believe the problem was caused by the actions of an individual editor at Tencent. Our communication with Tencent’s management today went smoothly. They expressed understanding for why the Global Times had to demand an apology. Their cooperation and good sense left me with a very positive impression.


The apology did nothing to staunch the online discussion. On May 29, there were over 3,000 comments about “moderate corruption” on Weibo. The next day, that number shot to nearly 300,000. A search for “moderate corruption” returns over 503,000 results as of June 8.

Many Chinese netizens aren’t buying Hu Xijin’s stance on the issue, saying that “allowing moderate corruption” accurately sums up the main point of the editorial, while the article’s original title obscures its real meaning. Some web users have even dug up screenshots of the Global Times and the People’s Daily webpages where the title reads “[China] Must Allow Moderate Corruption.” Weibo users also question Hu’s demand that headlines remain unchanged.

Select Weibo comments are below. See screenshots and read more comments on “moderate corruption” from CDT Chinese. Adam Minter also muses on the Global Times piece and the role of corruption in China at Bloomberg.

ConscienceOfHistory: I saw the central point in the Global Times’ original article—all countries are powerless to completely stamp out corruption. It just must be contained within an amount that the people can accept. What is the Global Times trying to say?

历史的良知:我看见了环球日报原文章的核心语句:任何国家都无法杜绝腐败,但要控制在民众允许的范围内! 环球日报想说什么?

PyongyangPropaganda: Little Penguin [Tencent’s mascot] got the central message of the article this time and made it easy to understand the real meaning of the Global Eat-Your-Fill* editorial. Very well done. Global Eat-Your-Fill should be thanking Little Penguin.


* “Eat-Your-Fill” (食饱) is play on the word for “Times” (时报) in Global Times.
LijunYang: [Hu Xijin] is wise after the fact, but beforehand he’s dumb as a pig…


JingXuemin: Old Hu, first you cast blame and then you commend. Don’t you think you’ve lost control of this platform by now? Your words and actions are so unreliable! You’re just messing with us netizens! I suggest you switch to a more laid-back job.


KiMzzzzzZ: The Global Times frequently uses articles from foreign media with altered titles and contents.  Do tell, does this mean it should present the foreign media with an apology?


WuhanTruthDream: Even titles have to go through you? Are you human?


LawyerMuDi: You’re right that the title was added, but it’s a very accurate summary. No distortion there.


WangMudi: Dearie, don’t frame others! I saw it on both your own Global Times Online and People’s Daily Online!


ILoveDora: We have the screenshots! You’re still lying!  A public figure openly lying! This is an extremely bad influence. What kind of morals are these? Why doesn’t Sina look into this?


Kaodao: This guy’s addicted to slapping himself in the face.  What an idiot.


Translated by Little Bluegill.

“Netizen Voices” is an original CDT series. If you would like to reuse this content, please follow the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 agreement.