Translation: Why Xi’s Anti-graft Campaign Bores Me
Yu Peiyun recently posted the following scathing review of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by President Xi Jinping and piloted by Central Commission for Discipline Inspection Secretary Wang Qishan. Yu’s work often appears on overseas websites that are critical of the Chinese Communist Party, like the Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty.
I Respect Old Wang, But I’ve Lost Interest in His Work
I respect Wang Qishan. I respect his character and sense of responsibility as a government official, and I believe he really has done some solid work. However, I have no interest whatsoever in the ongoing anti-corruption campaign. It would be difficult for the campaign to ever interest me or bring me any pleasure at all, no matter how many corrupt officials they may catch.
A few reasons:
1. No matter how fierce the anti-corruption campaign, it will only ever deal with the tip of the iceberg.
It has long been obvious that under the current system, there are virtually “no non-corrupt officials!” Those being acted against are corrupt, and the majority of those taking anti-corruption actions against others are also corrupt. There’s no fundamental difference between the corrupt and not corrupt, only the degree of corruption. The twisted combination of the government becoming authoritarian and the economy becoming partially market-oriented has created an unparalleled, unprecedentedly corrupt country. Today there are more than 100,000 Heshens, and tens of millions of Liu Qingshans and Zhang Zishans! For those who still dare to say that “the vast majority of Party members and cadres are good and honest,” at best, they don’t acknowledge the maxim “absolute power corrupts absolutely“; but to put it more bluntly, this is pure, unconscionable nonsense.
As soon as I picture them holding their meetings, corrupt on the podium and off, my only reaction to their so-called anti-corruption campaign is to sneer. Sneering, and more sneering.
2. Ninety-nine percent of ousted officials are small fry.
Some of the highest-profile corrupt officials and their families, who practically everybody in the country knows about, have actually been left untouched. Some families are completely corrupt and have been for generations. There are family members who hold the power, and others who rake in the cash. Some of their wealth rivals that of whole nations. Yet they’ve been left unscathed. In fact, their lofty status remains untouchable, as they continue in their corrupt ways with impunity. This blatant, world-wonder-level fact is the singularly largest point of dissatisfaction among the people, and it is the biggest reason why the current regime has lost the hearts of the people.
3. Official embezzlement figures are far smaller than numbers circulating online.
Why purposely cover up the real numbers? Could it be out of fear of public outrage? Do you assume that by not publicizing the real numbers everyone will be left in the dark? The reality is, everyone knows the degree to which you are corrupt, as if they were clairvoyant.
4. No one, no matter how corrupt, will be sentenced to death.
Remember that corrupt officials have been sentenced to death in the past. Over the past 30 years, however, it seems unlikely to happen again. It would be one thing if China abolished the death penalty. But China has not abolished the death penalty. Failing to sentence corrupt officials to death offers the corrupt a safe box, emboldening them forward after others fall, wave after wave, without fear. Personally, I believe the damage caused by corruption far exceeds that of any other crime. Murder only destroys the life of one person, or several. Drug trafficking only ruins a few lives. But corruption harms the entire nation and its people–at least all the common folk. It poisons the ethics and the heart of society as a whole. If there was one crime for which the death sentence should not be abolished, which would it be? I personally believe that crime is corruption. The correct approach would be to substantially increase the cost of corruption, and to treat corruption as the number one crime one can commit. Corrupt officials should be punished severely, and all of their ill-gotten gains should be completely confiscated. And even after a corrupt individual meets the king of hell, every cent of his or her wealth controlled by their next of kin must also be seized and added to the national treasury, to be used for the benefit of all citizens.
5. The people haven’t seen a cent of that dirty money.
Excuse me, but where is all that confiscated money going? Shouldn’t the people be given a public account of how it’s being used?
6. The anti-corruption campaign is a mystery, and the people lack the right to know.
Those corrupt officials, those problematic sectors that have been pointed out by the people, are never investigated or dealt with. What about the Red Cross? The lottery? Hospitals and the organ transplant industry? Family planning fines? Officials rumored to be corrupt for years, by word of mouth and over the internet? And those that were investigated for one year, two years, still after multiple years… they’re never tried or sentenced. Where are these corrupt officials? Where have they been? Could they be out on secret medical parole? Did they pull some strings and are now living a nice, quiet life out of public eye? A country with such a lack of transparency leaves its people completely in the dark. It’s very different from how the media reported on every possible detail regarding Chen Shuibian‘s time in prison–every single thing he ate, drank, shat, and pissed was made public. As for whether a political party’s internal disciplinary and inspection commission employing the “shuanggui” method conforms with the rule of law, I won’t get into that for the time being. But this is obviously debatable.
7. Corrupt elements go to so-called “provincial-level jails.”
The luxurious quality of life and treatment that high-level corrupt officials enjoy in prison, most people could never hope to have in a lifetime. The human rights of corrupt officials are protected, especially those with the right background. This isn’t an epic joke of historical and world-wide proportions–this is a despicable, bitter irony that the people must take.
8. No matter what the anti-corruption campaign does, the result will always be more corruption than before.
We don’t need an anti-corruption movement. What we need is a democratic system. We need the people to have the right to elect the government and hold it accountable, to make the government obey the people only. Only this would be the best anti-corruption measure. Authoritarian governments are the finest hotbeds for corruption. Even if an anti-corruption movement was as harsh as Zhu Yuanzhang, it couldn’t possibly get at the root of the problem. Institutionalized corruption ultimately requires institutional change to completely root it out. I can certainly understand the sentiment behind “treating the symptoms to buy time for the cure,” but my hope is that we aren’t too far away from that cure. Wait too long, I’m afraid, and who knows how many years it will take to rectify the damage caused by authoritarian politics and its byproduct, corruption.
In short, I don’t harbor any faith in the anti-corruption campaign being waged under China’s current system. Nor do I have any interest in it. But this doesn’t mean it has affected my relatively favorable impression of Wang Qishan. The two Party leaders who I admired the most passed away long ago. There is still a very small number of Party leaders still alive that I respect somewhat, Zhu and Wang for example. I believe that if China doesn’t move toward democracy as quickly as possible, Wang’s anti-corruption efforts are destined for failure. Corrupt elements will “flourish like grass on the steppes, springing up again as the warm wind blows,” the same as they always have. Just as Zhu left us in a sadly regrettable fashion years ago, perhaps Wang’s fate won’t be much better–unless China can truly see the light of democracy’s dawn! [Chinese]
Translation by Little Bluegill.