Corruption in China’s Countryside

On the New York Times blog, Hung Huang responds to the recent news about reforms in the rural land ownership system by telling the story of her experience buying property and building a weekend house in a Chinese village:

The party secretary came at dinnertime one evening and announced that we have to demolish our house because it was in the middle of a road that would be built for the Beijing Olympics. We got a little panicky, fed him some more wine, and tried to get him to help us to keep the house. He said he could probably help us. After all, there are three families whose houses sit in the middle of the road. Maybe the road should take a detour.

We heartily agreed, and told him that he was the best party secretary. He drank some more wine, commented about how he likes this foreign liquor called X.O., and told us that a getting a detour would cost us. We stuffed two bottles of X.O. (cognac) in his bag and paid him $10,000 and sent him on his way to make the road bend.

About four months later, the party secretary came again at dinner, and announced triumphantly that the road would be detoured and that we would get to keep our house. We were happy, so we gave him some wine and food, and as he was wiping his mouth with his shirt sleeves, he said, “But there is another problem.”

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