China Targets Corruption With Expense Crackdown

Melinda Liu of the Daily Beast reports on China’s crackdown on “naked officials” leaking embezzled funds overseas. At least $50 billion is thought to have left the country this way between 1978 and 2003, channelled by some 4,000 officials.

Public resentment over corrupt and extravagant officials is mounting. To try to dilute public ire, Beijing has announced a new regulation aimed at trimming the cost of government receptions, vehicles, and official trips—three areas of often-excessive spending (dubbed the “the three public consumptions”) that have been rife with abuse and opportunities for . By Oct. 1, government agencies will be prohibited from purchasing luxury items and other goods priced above set standards; officials who fail to comply will face disciplinary action.

[…] Many citizens are skeptical that the new regulation will have much bite. Previous campaigns that were supposed to trim government excesses, such as one that called for official banquets to feature just three hot dishes and one soup, resulted in bureaucrats “simply turning a deaf ear,” recalls Prof. Hu Xingdou of the Beijing University of Technology.

“I doubt the current campaign to limit official spending will be successful,” Hu told The Daily Beast, “Since the central government announced limits to official expenditures on purchasing cars, a lot of leading officials have in fact asked state-owned enterprises to buy cars for them … The SOEs have become like private ATM machines for local government officials.”

See also a CDT Word of the Week entry on “naked officials” and more on debates over how to deal with “naked officials,” dating back to 2010.