CORRUPTION in China has been and still remains a big problem. But that said, the government, in China’s case “the Party,” is taking some serious steps toward eradicating it. The public are encouraged to report instances of official corruption and such reports are investigated.
In a pilot program that authorities describe as a model for the whole nation, Shanghai’s Communist Party chief, Han Zheng, said last week that top local officials will be required to keep their spouses and children out of local businesses, or step down themselves. “If you choose to be an official, then don’t go into business to make a fortune.” China has no pretension to be a democracy, the “officials” are appointed by the Party leadership to govern the nation and the people.
There is, though, a system in place through which members of the public can file reports of instances of what they believe to be corrupt or improper practice by officials, and there is a well-staffed investigative body which reviews these complaints and takes action where appropriate. The number of reports is increasing rapidly as are the number of detailed investigations and convictions, and in China, the penalties for transgressions are often long jail terms or execution. It is claimed that the system is working and that corruption by officials is dramatically reducing; more likely because of fear of the increased risk of being caught and the consequent penalties to be faced in a totally opaque legal environment.
It is bad business when those entrusted with the welfare of the citizens use their positions of power, which are granted for the good of the people, for their own purposes.
There is a quote which I have been looking for but can’t find which goes something like, “if you decide to devote your life to public service, then you need to accept that you will remain poor”. President Roosevelt had many good quotes in a similar vein: “The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens.” “We must demand the highest order of integrity and ability in our public men . . . We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation . . .”
But really, should it be necessary to graphically point out that in a democracy, those whom the citizens vote to represent them should not use that position to enrich or even glorify themselves or, for that matter, their friends and relatives? To be endowed with political power by the voters is an expression of trust and faith in the belief that the appointee will do their best to look after the interests of those who voted for them (as well as the others whom they represent). To hijack that faith and trust for personal use is totally unacceptable.
President Roosevelt made another apposite quote; “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day . . . This country belongs to the people. Its resources, its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized, maintained, or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.” This assertion is explicit. We say directly that “the people” are absolutely to control in any way they see fit, the “business” of the country. Truly the people are “the bosses” in President Roosevelt’s thinking , and from the way in which he spoke, he was at great pains to ensure that this would really be the case.
It is a question of integrity and right moral sense. Alas, though, in a society in which overt corruption is accepted as the norm, even those with the strongest personal integrity can themselves be corrupted by the overwhelming force of the temptations which are introduced to them and the clever ways in which wrongful acts can be misrepresented by the corrupters, as “in the public interest.” The more corrupt the society, the greater is the need for a “will of iron” to be used in a fair and just way in order to counter it. The Chinese political system has the power to clean things up; politicians there don’t depend on votes, they depend more on relationships which, from recent reports, the corruption witch finders are not regarding as sacrosanct in their current anti-corruption drive—it may just make for some improvement. Or then again it may just be a witch hunt to remove some political enemies! How could you ever know?!
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.