Thanks to Dr. David Kelly for following translation of Liang Jing’s political commentary. The original Chinese version is here.
On May 30, the CPC Discipline and Inspection Commission (CDIC) issued “CDIC Regulations strictly prohibiting the use of one’s position to gain improper profits.” Imposing eight prohibitions on CPC members and cadres, it further stated: “leniency may be considered for those coming forward to clarify matters within 30 days of the issuance of this provision; In the case of those who refuse to correct errors, or violate provisions after its release, they will be discovered and dealt with seriously, and will not be tolerated.”
The 30-day deadline expired on 29 June. According to reports, reporters from China Legal Evening News liaised with Disciplinary Inspection Commissions in Shanxi, Hebei, Anhui, Shandong and Henan provinces. The result was that except for Shanxi and Henan, the other regions said that the situation regarding disclosures by officials was secret, and they refused to reveal it. The Shanxi DIC’s answer was that no cadres came forward to give an account, and the Henan DIC disclosed that a total of only 979 people “came forward to clarify”, while the amount of irregular money surrendered was only 8.21 million yuan, or 9,000 yuan per capita.
It is not difficult to see the lack of uniform instructions by CDIC to the provinces not to disclose voluntarily confessions of officials, with only the provincial disciplinary inspection chiefs of Henan and Shanxi leaking the truth. Unversed in the ways of officialdom, these two officials are likely to be regretting their actions now.
It is quite clear that CDIC’s publication of the “30 day deadline” was a bad move, that not only failed to achieve its expected results but also placed Hu Jintao in an awkward position. It was noted in the PRC that when this bad move was made, public opinion as a whole responded apathetically, showing that people did not look kindly on it at the time; and the final outcome proved their judgment correct. Therefore, the real interesting question is, why was such an obviously stupid idea introduced?
I don’t really believe that senior CDIC officials completely failed to anticipate the embarrassing result. As some netizens pointed out, the “30-day deadline” approach was first used to combat “official collusion with illegal coal mines” on the part of the Shanxi provincial government. When it was later used by the Ministry of Health to stop doctors “taking red envelopes,” nothing was done as a result. CDIC thus claimed to be seriously launching a”30-day deadline,” knowing all along that it was ineffective”which in fact conveys some important information.
In the first place, failure of the “30-day deadline” showed that the CPC’s opposition to its own corruption had “reached the end of its rope.”Hu Jintao himself could come up with no good ideas; even the officials he relies on to promote anti-corruption will¬†¬†not take up the approach he had accepted, and just try to muddle through with one which has already been proved ineffective. Not even effort to Hu’s self-deception in executing Zheng Xiaoyu in keeping with the “30-day deadline” was able to have any effect.
Knowing that there would be no effect, he still went on to expose his incompetence, and embarrassed himself. Apart from being unable avoid it,¬†¬†I believe Hu’s political calculations are behind this. He certainly knows that the Chinese people as a whole are deeply dissatisfied with official corruption, the hence employs all manner of gestures to show¬†¬†he is not unwilling to combat it, but the resistance being too great and preventing his anti-corruption push, Hu Jintao may actually benefit Hu in his struggle for supremacy at the 17th National Party Conference.
Such a political strategy, however, bears great risks. Empty displays of anti-corruption measures, while unable to really deter corrupt officials, may quite possibly offend many local and grass-roots officials, especially those with real power. The main reason China is virtually bereft of officials who are not greedy is not a lack of vigour in opposing corruption, but years of acquiescence in abuse of power by officials in exchange for their loyalty to the one-party autocracy. In particular, in most areas with inadequate financial resources, the government is unable to pay wages, but also wants the officials to complete various tasks, including very unpopular ones like family planning.
If local officials do not feed their conscience to the dogs and do injury to natural principles, not only will they fail in their tasks, even collecting their salaries will become problematic. Now that finances are flush, the Centre, with its many “legitimate” financial channels, suddenly changes its demeanour and puts on a respectable face, and wants the local officials to “voluntarily come clean” about the “issue” of their abuse of power: how can the officials below them not be expected to curse them to high heaven?