24 April 2014


New Zealand has obligations through its APEC membership to implement anti corruption measures in both public and private sectors. It is hard to discern any official commitment to promoting awareness of either the APEC Conduct Principles for Public Officials or the parallel Code of Conduct for Business.  These measures, developed in the 2007-08 period, consequent on Australian and  United States lobbying, appear to have run  out of steam even among the South East Asian states which initially showed a formal willingness.

But the United States apparently wants to rekindle interest.  At the Senior Officials Meeting in Ningbo (China)  earlier this year  the  United States reiterated its enthusiasm for integrity in business and government.  It restated that anti corruption is one of its key priorities and that there is a need for the APEC economies to take more action to fight corruption, bribery, and money laundering. “… So we hope this year to be able to make this a very important area within APEC and work with the Chinese, work with all the other economies, to highlight the issue and the problems of corruption and bribery and to try to come together with a statement of principles and commitments on how we can fight against bribery as a whole…”

That seems to play to the hand of the Chinese President.   Reuters has reported how he plans an anti corruption purge which will enable him to replace senior officials across government with a younger cadre more sympathetic to his policies.

Under the banner of fighting corruption he will remove both the blatantly corrupt and those resisting change so that he can consolidate his position and push through difficult economic, judicial and military reforms on which continued Communist Party rule depends.

“The anti-corruption drive is a means to an end. The goal is to promote his own men and like-minded officials to key positions to push through reforms,” according to Reuter‘s sources.

A notable tactic has been to put a loyal civilian into uniform and into a controlling role in the General Office of the Central Military Commission which oversees the armed forces.

Like his predecessor, the President has warned that corruption threatens the Party’s survival. Not that officials have been discouraged. A 2013 inquiry apparently found that more than 30 percent of leaders in the party, government and the armed forces were involved in some form of corruption. “…The government would be paralyzed if Xi went after all the corrupt officials.”

So China can project a commitment to UNCAC and APEC anti corruption responsibilities but the President will have to show caution to avoid upsetting too many interests that could coalesce to destabilise his position.