5 March 2011

The Premier’s opening speech the China’s People’s Congress has again referred to the importance of controlling corruption.  He said the party needed to loosen the concentration of power in the hands of a few and “resolutely” deal with endemic corruption.  This policy is a response to public anger.  It builds on a warning from the President last year that the corruption situation was “grave” and that  change would require long-term efforts.  In 2009, more than 100,000 officials were convicted of embezzlement and bribery.

The Chinese Government plays its part in international moves to counter corruption, being active for example in the WTO and  UNCAC, and in 2009 when holding the APEC chair, took the lead in raising the profile of anti-corruption measures in the region. However preventing corruption requires transparency and a willingness to exercise power in the public interest. The nature of Communist Party government can sit uneasily with those drivers.

This week the most senior of China’s leaders ever reported by the media to be corrupt was sacked from the role he has had since 2003 as the Minister of Railways.   He is alleged to  have embezzled more than $121million.  These “serious disciplinary violations” appear to have been bribes in return for contracts for the high-speed rail network.

The Chinese system has a Department for Discipline Inspection that deals with corruption within the Party organisation.  Although offenders often receive death sentences  these usually are commuted.  This occurred last year when a senior anti corruption official in Shandong Province charged with corruptly obtaining assets over a ten year period ended up with a 2 year sentence. The official report was that his assets we confiscated.