• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 6:23am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 6:07am

Learn from the West on how to curb graft

Rather than drawing on the anti-corruption heroes of feudal dynasties, the leadership should be focusing on transparency and accountability


Wang Xiangwei took up the role of Editor-in-Chief in February 2012, responsible for the editorial direction and newsroom operations. He started his 20-year career at the China Daily, before moving to the UK, where he gained valuable experience at a number of news organisations, including the BBC Chinese Service. In 1993, he moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express before joining the South China Morning Post in 1996 as our China Business Reporter. He was subsequently promoted to China Editor in 2000 and Deputy Editor in 2007, a position he held for four years prior to being promoted to his current position. Mr. Wang has a Masters degree in Journalism, and a Bachelors degree in English.

Bao Zheng, a magistrate in Kaifeng, the capital of the Northern Song dynasty more than 1,000 years ago, has been immortalised in Chinese dramas and operas as a symbol of justice and the best known example of an honest and upright official throughout Chinese history.

Portrayed with a black face in opera or drama, he is known not only for his intolerance of injustice and corruption but also for his down-to-earth lifestyle, despite his high government ranking.

According to the legendary tales, he went after the high-ranking officials involved in corruption, used his power to help ordinary people seek justice, and even stood up against the emperor and his relatives, including having one of his son-in-laws executed for murder.

Now the mainland leaders look set to dust off Bao's heroic deeds and draw on the anticorruption practices from China's feudal dynasties to help fight rampant corruption within the Communist Party and the government at all levels.

According to Xinhua, the Politburo held its fifth group study on Friday, inviting two historians to elaborate on how the feudal dynasties dealt with official corruption and promoted clean and honest administration.

President Xi Jinping, presiding over the meeting, said studying China's anti-corruption history and learning from the ancient anti-corruption culture would help promote the cause by using historical wisdom, Xinhua reported.

Unfortunately, the Xinhua report did not mention what historical wisdom and lessons were discussed at the meeting. But it quoted Xi as saying that the core of the anti-corruption struggle was to "always maintain the party's flesh-blood relationship with the people and avoid being isolated from the people".

The report about the study session is both interesting and odd at the same time.

The fact that the mainland leaders are drawing on ancient wisdom shows that they are desperate for effective measures to curb corruption.

Since Xi came to power in November, he has made fighting graft one of his top priorities, playing up the line that the anti-corruption effort concerns the party's survival or demise.

But the effort to seek ancient wisdom has also inadvertently shown that the mainland leadership still lacks political courage to push for genuine political reforms and rule of law to fight corruption.

In a sense, it shows that the mainland leadership still tries to cling to an outdated belief that if an upright and honest official like Bao can prevail in a feudal period, then this can happen in today's society.

Many party officials have argued that learning from the past and educating civil servants on the virtues of being a clean and honest official can help reduce corruption.

In fact, this was what Hu Jintao tried to do when he came to power 10 years ago. Briefly, he tried to push for a rule by virtue by trying to promote a high standard of morality among officials, but that policy failed miserably.

The consensus is, rather, that corruption became much worse during the 10 years of his presidency.

Moreover, while there were a number of upright officials such as Bao in feudal times, the fact remains that so many successions of dynasties in Chinese history, interposed with bloody wars, were usually triggered by corrupt regimes despite the best efforts of the upright officials.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong in learning from the past and promoting morality education for officials.

However, the leaders could find better and more effective ways to curb corruption by learning from other countries.

Improving government transparency and accountability is a proven tool in curbing corruption and the leadership must push ahead with more efforts to reduce the power of officials and promote the rule of law. This would put government operations under the spotlight of public supervision.

It may well be a coincidence but on April 12, both the White House and the Kremlin released the latest updates on the family assets of US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But on the mainland, calls for mainland officials to declare their family assets have been going on for more than 20 years but little progress has been made.

As many Chinese analysts have long argued, the leadership in Beijing could go a long way to curbing corruption by taking the lead in declaring their own family assets.


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Abraham Lincoln (American 16th US President (1861-65), who brought about the emancipation of the slaves. 1809-1865) ~~ “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
What a waste of time, money and effort. They could learn so much from their neighbors in Hong Kong. Look at how bad corruprion had become before ICAC came around. If they would stop trying to destroy Hong Kong and instead learn from it - even though those insitutions are founded in Western principles.
The problem here is that it requires political reform. I would bet that most politicians have welath they cannot account for and some have outrageous wealth they cannot account for. The "original sin" is what plagues most CCP politicians and if transparancy would becoem the norma, party members from bottom to top woudl be implicated, that is the problem and why such reofrms cannot and will not occur.
And immediately after the study session, there were small breakout groups formed within the high ranking attendees to discuss best places to park family fortunes such as British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and The Cayman Islands, all while appearing humble, and concerned about "The People" (class taught by Wen Jiabao).
Well said Sir! I could not have penned it better myself!
Until the Americans drop their paranoia about ‘reds under the bed’ and stop throwing brick bats at any leader or national government which advocates and prefers a fair, but balanced, degree of authoritarianism and socialism, they will continue of their path of eventual self-destruction. People need to be RULED. This is written over thousands of years of history and will never change.
Western style multiparty democracy lends itself so easily to manipulation by the wealthy and greedy. It pretends to have checks and balances but these are mainly illusory and often faked. The full ‘one man one vote’ system, presenting itself as the almost unpronounceable term of ‘universal suffrage’ (what a stupid name) is less than 100 years of age, even in Western jurisdictions...... in other words it’s rather like Boeing Dreamliner batteries .... untested and prone to getting hot under the collar, when challenged.


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