Drawing the News: Cleaning up an Official Mess

Chinese officialdom has been rocked by a half-dozen sex scandals in the past three weeks alone. The wave may signal that Xi Jinping is staying true to his promise to crack down on corruption. Is this correlation, or causation?

Artist: Xu Jun

A mandarin in imperial garb holds a miniature “scandal-blocking wall” (遮羞墙) in front of his face. Is he shielding himself from his unsavory peers, or hiding his own guilt? The wall shakes in his hands as he nervously hopes for the best.

Artist: Yuanzi

New broke this week that People’s representative Li Junwen of Taiyuan, Shanxi has ten children among four wives. When locals went to the petitions office to complain, they were told it was “none of your business,” a phrase written in charming calligraphy at the top of this cartoon. Legally, Li is allowed just one wife and one child. “Turtle,” 龟 guī, sounds similar to 贵 guì, “expensive.” Those who disobey the one-child policy face steep fines.


Artist: Dashix
Yet another official is dragged into scandal, this time by “Anti-Corruption Twin Sisters Productions,” as this cartoon is titled. Qi Fang, the head of the Public Security Bureau in Usu, Xinjiang, has lost his job over “maintaining improper relations” with twin sisters and getting jobs lined up for them. (As Evan Osnos pointed out in the New Yorker, it turned out that the women were simply sisters, not twins.) Twin Sisters Productions is an American children’s music recording company.

Artist: Rebel Pepper

Rebel Pepper commemorates the Karamay Fire, which took the lives of hundreds of schoolchildren in 1994 and etched the chilling mantra “leaders first” into the Chinese language. The tragedy is invoked to describe the suffering of ordinary people as they are sacrificed for the authorities. A lone figure runs out of a burning building, while children wearing their red Young Pioneers scarves, flames rising out of their bodies like the halos of bodhisattvas, line either side of the walls. The text in the image reads, “On December 8, 1994, the education bureau of Karamay, Xinjiang held a talent show in Friendship Theater to welcome visiting officials. During the performance, a light overheated, setting fire to the stage curtain. A conflagration raged. A leader shouted, “Leaders first!” In the end, 325 people died, including 288 schoolchildren and 37 teachers and workers. All of the local leaders escaped with their lives. Of 23 provincial-level officials [present], 17 died and six were injured.”

Artist: Dashix

Who are the “lucky ones” to survive disaster? The ghosts of the Titanic victims try to reason with the officials in Karamay to let the women and children go first, instead of the leaders.

Read more about official corruption from CDT.


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