29 January 2013

When there are “slim pickings” in the way of integrity news, a corruption story often seems to emerge in China. Over the weekend a Hong Kong paper reported that Li Jianguo, the Vice Chairman of the Peoples’ Congress – the national legislature– has been hospitalised because of psychological stress. The implication is that he is one of the “tigers” targeted by the anti corruption campaign announced earlier this month by President Xi Jinping, the new head of the Chinese Communist Party.

Until now, Beijing based officials have seldom been punished for corrupt practices, the focus being on those with a regional power base. Bo Xilai, who was chief in Chongqing until his arrest in 2012 after the death of a British businessman, was one of the most prominent. He was a candidate for the standing committee of the Politburo. His trial is anticipated in March.

Li, appointed last year as one of the 25 Politburo members, may well become the most senior political figure to be charged with corruption; although over the last 18 years, three others elected to the Politburo have been removed from office and disgraced as corrupt.

Ironically a finding in the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer is that public trust in China has increased 18% since 2008. The barometer shows that the Chinese have a higher level of trust in their business and government leaders than the public in any of the other 25 countries recently surveyed. The Chinese were higher “trusters” than nationals in any of the other countries surveyed in 2011 and 2012.