18th Party Congress

Party leaders pay lip service to tackling corruption

Hu's warning on corruption may have sounded stern but seems hollow given it has been trotted out myriad times by previous top party officials

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 7:52am

The warning by Communist Party general secretary Hu Jintao on Thursday that the party's failure to tackle graft could result in the "fall of the state and party" may have sounded severe - but he was only repeating something that his predecessors have been warning about for years.

Despite the repeated warnings, corruption has continued to spread and eat into every fibre of mainland society - from government to the market, schools and many other areas.

Serious as they sound, political scientists said the warnings by party leaders were just lip service because the mechanism for tackling corruption was not working properly and the leadership did not seem inclined to fix it.

Professor Li Chengyan , from Peking University's school of government, said there was no shortage of historical examples of prosperous dynasties falling into decay after rampant corruption by government officials.

"It is a common knowledge that the same threat is facing the Communist Party and the state," Li said. "All the leaders have recognised the threat and fear a repeat of what happened to the Soviet Union and letting the party and the state fall during their reign."

In 1993, then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping warned that corruption could pose a lethal threat to the party and "if the [party] style continues to deteriorate … the nature of the party would be corrupted, and economic work would be adversely affected".

Six years later, then party general secretary Jiang Zemin ordered an all-round purge of corrupt party cadres to prevent social unrest, saying "the party now faces some of its most serious challenges in history". At the same time, public funding of extravagant meetings and overseas trips was also banned.

Then, in July 2006, following a spate of graft cases involving top officials, Hu called for intensified efforts to eliminate corruption within the Communist Party, warning that widespread ills were undermining its authority.

Li said Hu's latest words "objectively and fairly" evaluated the threat of corruption, but repeating the same warning year after year with increased stridency only revealed one thing, that the party lacked an efficient mechanism to fight corruption.

Political analyst Dr Liu Junning said stressing the importance of fighting graft while lacking an efficient anti-graft mechanism only showed how hollow such sentiments were. "The leadership believes the corruption is still under control and all these warnings are just a show of lip service," Liu said.