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Shifting Trends in Corruption
Summary:The past year has seen a cascade of officials fall to corruption charges. The Economic Observer looks at certain long-held trends relating to corruption and how things are starting to change, thanks to more determined leadership and better public supervision.


By Shen Nianzu (
Issue 600, Dec 24, 2012
Nation, page 9
Translated by Zhu Na
Original article:

The officials who’ve fallen to corruption charges recently in China are almost too numerous to count.

Li Chuncheng (李春城), Lei Zhengfu (雷政富),and Liang Daoxing (梁道行) are some of the more notorious examples from the cascade of officials who’ve met their political demise this year, thanks to a combination of more determined leadership and increased public supervision.

An Economic Observer reporter examined cases of charged officials at or above the bureau level (厅局级) to see what trends there are in corruption and how they’re changing.

Among the officials at these levels who were sacked recently, many were in key sectors like land, finance and transportation - which wield enormous power. Within the past two years, for instance, Hunan Province’s transportation system has seen four provincial-level officials canned.

In Guangdong, Lǚ Yingming (吕英明),former deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Department of Land and Resources was suspected of "serious disciplinary violations" and put under investigation. At the national level, Li Yuan (李元), vice minister of the Ministry of Land and Resources, was sacked and expelled from the Party last June due to disciplinary violations. The Ministry of Railways has perhaps been the most vivid example, which has seen numerous corruption scandals culminating in the fall of top Minister Liu Zhijun.

Major corruption cases have often clustered in areas that control significant resources. Xin Xiangyang (辛向阳), a researcher at the Marxism Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, explained that in these corruption-prone areas, supervision of power is virtually non-existent. “Restraining power” becomes nothing but empty talk and corruption thrives, he says.

This is aggravated further by cadre alliances that mutually enable and support corrupt practices. Within a three month period in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, there were more than 10 officials in the environmental protection and health system put under investigation for involvement in illegal treatment of pollutants and reselling medical waste. And in Xuchang, Henan province, over 60 people involved with housing demolition were prosecuted.

Xin said that it’s difficult for top leaders to indulge in corruption alone since there is some amount of control in the system. In order to get through these barriers, they need to form corrupt cliques.

This is one reason that officials frequently get promoted even while indulging in corruption. Liu Jiulong (刘九龙), a doctoral student in the Social Sciences Department of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, researched this phenomenon for his thesis. In his research he analyzed 43 sacked officials at the provincial level who had been promoted while involved in corruption between 2002 and 2012. He discovered that most began their corrupt behavior at the prefecture level at an average age of 47 to 48 years old, and that most cadres who are promoted while involved with corruption are able to climb one or two ranks to the vice-provincial level before getting busted.

However, in recent years, an internet-fueled surge of corrupt officials being taken down by the public has been gaining momentum.

The 2012 anti-corruption Blue Book, a report on China’s clean government efforts, was released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on Dec 19. The report said that in 2011, discipline and supervision organs across the country received a total of 1.34 million corruption tip-offs; of which roughly 137,000 were filed and investigated with 136,000 cases closed. A total of 4,843 cadres above the county level were punished and 777 transferred to judicial organs. The report says that economic losses of 8.4 billion yuan were averted through the investigations.

Xin explained that this is related to local people starting to take a more active role in supervising officials through online mechanisms. He says this drive is necessary to prevent corruption from increasing along with economic development.

According to statistics from Du Zhizhou (杜治洲), a scholar in public administration at Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, over the past eight years at least 118 corruption cases have been exposed through the internet. 2009 saw 14 such cases, which grew to 50 in 2011.

The microblog Weibo has presented itself as a low cost and effective means for the public to expose official wrong-doing. One infamous example was the recent case of Lei Zhengfu (雷政富), the former party head of Chongqing's Beibei district who was removed from his position and placed under investigation just 63 hours after a compromising sex tape emerged on Weibo. Likewise, Sun Dejiang (孙德江), a people's congress deputy of Shuangcheng city, Heilongjiang Province and manager of a state-owned company, was removed from his position after a former TV host accused him of sexual assault through Weibo.

Liu Chunjin (刘春锦), former deputy director of the research division of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, once pointed out that among bureau-level cadres who were punished, 90 percent had mistresses. In some cases, several corrupt officials even shared the same mistress.

Anti-corruption expert Wang Minggao (王明高) said that some regions have put more emphasis on this crackdown and taken stricter measures than others. He explained that this has little to do with the actual severity of corruption, but more to do with determination of the local leaders. Coastal areas not only tend to take the lead in economic development, but also in anti-corruption action.

From February to June this year for instance, coastal Guangdong Province investigated 677 cases of commercial bribery, with 2,046 cases still being followed. The cases involve 805 million yuan and 1,072 party members, leaders and cadres. These figures are still increasing.

Yu Chunsheng (于春生), vice minister of the Ministry of Supervision, warned not to view the cascade of fallen officials as a sign that corruption is necessarily much worse than in the past. “Some of the cases that have been investigated and punished didn’t actually take place recently,” he said. “Some happened several years ago or more than ten years ago and are just now getting exposed.”

Links and sources
Economic Observer: Senior Shanghai Land Official Under Investigation

This article has been condensced from the original Chinese version


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