27 October 2012

An example of hypocrisy, China-style, was published this week.  The retiring Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has amassed personal wealth of US$2.7 billion during his ten years in office. His salary is less than US$ 24,000.  The report by the New York Times has been condemned as a smear by Chinese news agencies.

The Premier has repeatedly championed measures to counter the growth of corruption, delivering a signature speech several times in each of the last few years about the importance of stamping out corruption and the damaging effect on the Communist Party of the abuse of power by officials.

He created an impression that senior Party leaders, committed to ethical reforms, were not involved in the corruption by lesser officials regularly reported by the media.

The Premier is the highest administrative position in the Government and is responsible for organising the ministries, departments, commissions, and agencies that comprise the civil bureaucracy.  The Minister of Supervision – responsible for discipline within the civil service and setting standards on matters like officials’ salaries, business interests, and offshore investments – reports to the Premier.

Controls precluding the family members of officials from acquiring assets seem to have had no application to Wen Jiabao. The New York Times reports that his mother, wife, son, daughter, brother and brother in law have vast business interests in banks, jewellers, tourist resorts, telecom companies and infrastructure projects, and substantial offshore investments.

Wen Jiabao’s condemnation of corrupt practices now seems to have been a con.  He was very popular in China because of his apparently genuine interest in “the people”.  ( I saw that appeal in 2009, when with 17 representatives of APEC member states on an anti corruption working group, we met with him in one of the provincial halls within the Great Hall of the People.)

Yesterday the Party expelled Bo Xilai from Parliament, removing his immunity from prosecution for offences widely reported earlier this year.

Will Wen Jiabao be next?