Can the CCP Function Without Corruption?

Xi Jinping’s inter-Party anti-corruption campaign has now been in effect for over two years. Government statistics show that well over 100,000tigers and flies” have been disciplined since December 2012, the vast majority of whom were punished last year. With a fear of disciplinary action now sweeping through a system so permeated by , some have noted that cadres may be less able to effectively implement policy, and less willing to do so without graft-related financial incentive. From Simon Deyer at the Washington Post:

[…] As a result [of the sweeping anti-corruption drive], many others are sitting on their hands, delaying decisions and failing to grant approvals for investment projects, either out of fear that they could be caught up in a future corruption probe, or because, without a bribe, they simply lack any incentive to act.

[…] Ren Jianming, a professor of clean governance at Beihang University in Beijing, said officials were not used to a system that ran without corruption.

“Developers don’t believe that, without bribing, they would get a project, and officials don’t believe that, without bribing, they could be promoted,” he said. “They don’t trust a clean system.

“Officials have stopped or delayed making decisions to avoid risks. Even if they don’t take a bribe now, they might be suspected or reported. Then their previous corruption would be found out.”

[…] “Nobody wants to do anything,” said one official in Beijing, who declined to be identified while speaking on a sensitive subject. “If we do things, we are exposed to all kinds of risks, including political risks. And we don’t have financial incentives.” [Source]

Xinhua seeks to counter opinions that the anti-corruption campaign can be blamed for idle officials:

For one thing, the reluctance of some officials to work diligently and serve the people now that their “perks” have been taken away reveals their poor awareness of the CPC spirit and responsibilities, and that is exactly what the campaign is targeting.

For another, such problems may have long existed but have just come to light with intensified supervision and serious investigation.

Like competition regulations that only target violators without upsetting the free market, the corruption crackdown hammers only wayward officials without prejudice to those who are competent and willing to work for the public.

Instead of undermining officials’ enthusiasm, the fight against corruption, by weeding out malfeasance in officialdom, will help create an environment that encourages honest, hard work.

The country’s leaders have also noticed the problem and are paying close attention to it. […] [Source]

Premier Li Keqiang this week asked local officials to pledge that they will fulfill their duties, saying official inaction has exacerbated China’s economic slowdown. While some may see inactivity as a way to avoid the perils of Xi’s crackdown, others have found in it a chance to exercise political pragmatism. The South China Morning Post’s Angela Meng reports on “traps” being set up to advance Party careers:

Ambitious rivals of communist party cadres and businessmen linked to China’s political figures have secretly set “traps” to help  blackmail them over indiscretions and advance their own careers, Chinese media reports.

[…] The Chinese magazine, Honesty Outlook, reported that this unorthodox practice had become much more common since President launched his unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, targeting party, government, military and state-owned company officials suspected of corruption, after coming to power in late 2012.

“Disgruntled underlings and peers are both likely to set up traps and record evidence of officials’ wrongdoings,” Wang Wu, a local party chief in an named county in western China, was quoted as saying. […] [Source]

At China Media Project, David Bandurski translates a recent article in Party political theory journal Seeking Truth (attempting to represent foreign reports on negative fallout from the anti-corruption campaign as part of an ideological drive to undermine China:

[…C]ertain Western countries and media, for whatever reason, with whatever goals, voice concern over China’s anti-corruption [campaign], and moreover take a hostile attitude, even conjuring things out of thin air, making conjectures, dragging the name of China’s anti-corruption effort through the dirt. This is outrageous. In its 2013 Human Rights Report, the United States, while giving a nod to China’s achievements in punishing corrupt officials, made groundless accusations about the selectivity of the anti-corruption drive, casting doubt on our Party’s internal discipline procedures. As I understand it, the United States has always prioritized its human rights reports, wielding them as clubs with which to beat other countries. For it to play the part of backseat driver in this way, in such an important government document, clearly violates the convention in diplomatic relations of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

[…] Anyone with a bit of common sense knows that corruption is already a common enemy around the world. All countries, even those with reputations for clean governance, have corruption — and all should fight corruption, as successive world declarations against corruption have fully made clear. What is strange is that when corruption is raging in China, this draws attack from public opinion in the West. And now, when China is dealing resolutely with corruption, they are still spewing calumnies. This exposes their true faces, as determined at any time to set China up as the enemy.

It goes without saying that China’s anti-corruption drive is China’s own business, not something they need to say anything about. And yet these eminent Westerners (洋大人) not only oppose it but maliciously spread rumors with a mind to doing harm, labeling it in all sorts of [prejudicial] ways. This has reached the point of madness. Is it possible that China’s anti-corruption drive has set off their central nervous systems, jabbed at their sore spots, dug their graves? Clearly, for Western hostile ones (敌对分子) to oppose China’s anti-corruption campaign so vigorously, to so boldly blacken China’s leaders, demonstrates that our anti-corruption drive has already logged achievements that have left our enemies frightened. […] [Source]

Meanwhile, Xi’s anti-corruption crusade appears to be gaining momentum. The South China Morning Post’s Angela Meng reports that chief Wang Qishan pledged to ramp up scrutiny in state-owned enterprises, and that Wang also warned punishment would follow inaccurate asset declarations. At Foreign Policy, Rachel Lu reports that CCTV’s upcoming New Year’s Gala is expected to star a “crosstalk” skit lampooning corrupt officials, a “sign that the party is determined to reap propaganda value from its relentless anti-corruption campaign.” While their annual Spring Festival celebration may be used as a venue to promote the campaign this year, the network itself has not been immune to investigation. At the New York Times, Edward Wong reports:

[…N]ow the wrath of the party has turned on the network itself. An inquiry into corruption at CCTV, as the network is known, has shaken up the nation’s most influential news and propaganda organization, riveting the country with reports involving a seamy mix of celebrities, sex and bribery.

At least 15 senior network employees have disappeared into the maw of party and state detention, according to official news reports and people who have been tracking the investigations. The most famous, Rui Chenggang, 37,a smooth-talking financial news anchor who wore Italian suits and drove a Jaguar, was noticeably absent last month from the annual conference of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, where he had been a fixture for years.

The network’s more than 10,000 employees are on edge. The practice of trading positive coverage for cash is so prevalent, many say, that everyone lives in fear that employees who have been detained will reveal details about their colleagues. Like others for this article, they spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the authorities for talking about the continuing investigations. […] [Source]

Read about the investigation into CCTV anchor Rui Chenggang and surrounding netizen commentary, or the ongoing anti-corruption campaign, via CDT.