NO matter how zealous China is in conducting its anti-corruption campaign, it faces a mammoth task in rooting out a widespread source of petty profiteering and disguised bribery: the collection of illicit fees. Consider these two points: a campaign was launched two years ago to stop illicit fees and it failed; and China has a mind-boggling 1.11 million types of government fees. The fees are imposed by the full gamut of government departments and agencies but those to be the prime targets of the latest crackdown include public security bureaus, judicial departments, power companies, schools, hospitals and land administrations. Some of the fees are less than official. In some cases, airlines make passengers pay for re-confirming reservations; schools charge students for desks; and railways charge a fee for selling tickets. Some of the recipients are less than official, too. According to the Hong Kong China News Service, many of the fees collected by junior officials end up in the hands of senior cadres. The Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council have issued new regulations to try to stop these practices. They give officials at all levels the power to check on the nature, rates and ranges of fees and on where the money goes. The trouble is that it is officials at various levels who impose illicit fees and/or keep the money. When wrong-doers investigate themselves they are unlikely to admit to finding malpractice. China has to be serious about getting tough on official corruption. It imposes a burden on the people and is an obstacle to doing business with other countries. But the discipline imposed by the party and government no longer has its old force. This has set up a vicious circle for those in power: Beijing's authority throughout the nation has been weakened; but the longer corruption remains uncontrolled, the more its authority will continue to be weakened. Its efforts to rein in corruption are correct and welcome. But the problem is so widespread and takes so many forms that startling, and rapid, results cannot be expected. This is no reason to stop the campaign but it is to recognise that the battle, if it is to be fought properly, will be long and tough.