20 February 2013

There always seems to be a Chinese example reported by the media of human greed and an organisational enthusiasm to exploit others for personal advantage. It appears that few sectors in China are not tarred by the brush of corruption. The entrepreneurship of the commercial sector can be painted almost as a facade for the deceit and opportunism of the hundreds of millions it engages. The new Chinese leadership seems to be as aware as its predecessor of the importance of resisting corruption, but commentators are not convinced the integrity demanded of all officials is backed by a genuine expectation.

Transparency International didn’t rate the Chinese public sector too badly in December 2012 – although acknowledging that if fell to 80th place (of 179) – five places down from 2011 , but “scoring” less than 40 out of the possible of 100. New Zealand shared the top spot with 90.

But can anything more be expected? If a state institutionalises corrupt practices on an industrial scale, are its citizens unavoidably channelled into a similarly corrupt existence?

This week’s news is that Unit 61398 of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has spent more than a decade engaged in a cyber-attack on United States businesses, downloading incredibly extensive quantities of data, and applying that information to strengthen Chinese competitiveness. This operation implies that the government has no genuine commitment to ethical conduct. American spokespeople are adamant that the results of monitoring show that Chinese Government denials can have no credibility. The BBC has reported that one of its reporters was detained when inquiring about the Shanghai building from where the cyber-attacks are launched.

The purported values of an organisation are only window dressing if they are not central to the way the organisation operates, are not modelled by all managers, are not demanded of all staff, and are not respected and aspired to, by all.