Corruption in China

Corruption is a very interesting topic when studying about China. It is like a label of this nation. When you talk about China, you will associate it with corruption. It is also like an open secret and hidden rule. Missing this part, your study of China will not be completed. Almost everyone in China has their individual thoughts about corruption, because they all either a lot or a little involve in the corruption case. Sometimes, even a primary school student will think that they should send some nice gifts to their teachers on the Chinese Teacher’s Day. It is like a culture in China. People are used to it. However, when it gets to a point which is unfair to the people, they will try to fight back.

Therefore, the laws of corruption are created. As corruption has shared a big part of attention, the laws, of course, have to make a clear definition of it and they have defined it in many different types. The number of the types of the common categories of corruption in China is already surprising us. Among all types, there are three categories are sharing most of the percentage. They are embezzlement, bribery and misappropriation. As shown in the chart below, these three types of corruption share the biggest part of one project or one people.

These three kinds of corruptions are easier to be found out among all other kinds, so China is putting most of the energy to crack down these types of cases. Embezzlement is very common in China, because it will be easier to rouse up the officials’ greediness when they can actually see and control the money. Some funds of a city are fully controlled by the government. There is not a higher level fund supervisor department to put an (Retrieved from eye on the money.

Therefore, almost everyone will take out some money for their own when the fund is passing by. In this case, this group of officials will try to protect each other because they all have corrupted on the same point and do not want to be found out. Even they are caught and put on court; the judges are still helping them. This is because the laws in China have so many leaks that can be used. Most of the time, it will not ascertain the condition.

The way to define the laws is all determined by the judges. Therefore, another corruption opportunity is appeared. This is sad but common in China. Bribery is also very common in China. In the old time, between 1977 and 2000, bribery is everywhere. When a six years old kid wants to go to a better primary school, you can even directly give the head master a fifty thousand dollar sponsor fee. In the back time, if you know the head master of the school, you can save a space for your kid. Now, the government makes it legal, so the students must pass the test first and then give sponsor fee.

One more example, if you want to have a pharmacy, you need to have many departments’ proven documents because it is hard to get a license of selling drugs. There are some people saying that if you give some money to each department, they will let you go through all the process easier and faster. As you know, in the businessmen’s eyes, time is money. They will think that it is worth to spend some money in order to start their business earlier. Sometimes they may directly send cash to the officials and sometimes they may send some expensive gifts. As they know it is a sensitive movement, they may communicate with the relatives of the officials and indirectly give them advantages.

This is because that the laws state that a corruption case will only be put on record when a national staff is involved. Therefore, if the officials’ relatives are receiving money and gifts, it makes it harder to incriminate the officials. On the other hand, some people mix bribery with “Guanxi.” As we all know that, “Guanxi” is an important part of doing business in China. It literally means “relationship,” stands for all types of relationship. There are many forms of doing “Guangxi,” and it does not have to be based on cash. Originally, it is totally legal and has nothing to do with bribery.

However, its meaning is twisted by some of the businessmen. They claim that in order to have good relationship with the officials, they will send gifts, treat them dinners and maybe pay the travel fee for the officials. Once they have given some advantages to the officials, they can ask for some convenience back. Some officials may also think that no matter they accept the money or not, they still need to do the same work. Therefore, they will gradually accept the gifts and money and become greedier when time pass.

Misappropriation is another category that has high percentage of appearance. It is different than embezzlement, because the officials intend to return the money later. When officials have chance to control a big amount of money and it may not need to be spent right away, they may come up an idea of borrowing those money and return later. It can create a big amount of interest even they put it in the bank. If they do some investment by using that money, they can earn much more than their salary. Once they have earned enough, they will return the same amount of money they take out and pretend nothing has happened, and they have already gained a lot of money from it.

In the Chinese law, if an official is involved in a misappropriation case, there will not be a heavy punishment if they return the money within three months. Therefore, more and more officials will have a gut to do it. Especially in some small town, officials are harder to be supervised.

Except the three main kinds of corruption, there are also many other kinds like squandering, privilege seeking and smuggling. Squandering is one of them. In every year’s financial budget, there is a part called entertainment charge. It is to pay for the hotel fee and meal fee when officials on a trip for work. However, there is not a limit on how much they spend. They can all submit an expense account to the treasurer’s office. Therefore, they will choose some expensive restaurant and luxury hotel to spend their money. Sometimes, when officials go travelling, they will claim it as a business trip and get their money back from the office. It is a waste of public funds. Privilege seeking is also common nowadays in China. One of a biggest corruption cases in 2009 is the Canton Education Department case.

The director of the Education Department uses his special privilege to gain a lot of money for his own. He can control the spaces in every school, therefore he sell the spaces along with the school’s head master to people they know. After he is caught, over a hundred of head masters surrender themselves to the government due to all kinds of pressure. Sometimes, it is hard to find out the source of the officials’ money, and it will be grouped as the illegal earnings. If an official works in the construction department and a building under his supervise collapses, he will be claimed as negligence.

Speculation, smuggling and other categories of corruption are all existed in China. Except from talking about the types, the trends of corruption are also developing and there are three new trends of corruption. The first one is from cash corruption to capital corruption.

Cash corruption is only using the money of the government. For example, the officials will eat in some expensive restaurant and then get the money back from the office. If they are bribed and earn some money, they will use to buy some luxury goods like brand named bags and clothes. However, this type of corruption can be found out easily. Therefore, they move to another stage, that is the capital corruption. This is more than just spending money. Officials can use this way to gain a lot of money.

For example, if a land should be sold for 50 million, the official can write an official document to let the businessman buy the land with 30 million. As a return, the businessman will give 10 million back to the official. Then, the official can use that money to invest and the money turn into his own property. The second trend is from individual to collective corruption.

This is not hard to understand. When one person is doing a corruption by himself, all of the other people are his enemy. However, if he asks everyone to share his illegal money, all of these people will become partners on the same boat. It can minimize the risk when more people are involved. The third rend is from domestic to transnational corruption. Some officials like the immigration department have the right of controlling the customs. They may use their power to do smuggling.

This is a kind of corruption that has two countries involved in it. China is also one the biggest money laundry of the world. It is all because of the officials use their own power to allow the illegal money step into the country. People should have the right to report any illegal movements of the officials, but it is too hard to reach the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China. Even the cases are accepted, the victim can still wait for years and hear back nothing. There is no one else can help them, because the officials are all helping each other and the common people are almost impossible to fight back. The truth can never be found if the departments are helping each other.

In 2009, Shenzhen has a serious large corruption case. The mayor of Shenzhen Xu Zongheng is found out corrupting. One of the movie stars alleges that Xu Zongheng has gain lots of money from selling the government’s positions to those people who want to work in the government. Xu Zongheng uses his position power and sells different government jobs. After Xu’s exposure, over 50 more officials are found to be related.

These group of people are doubted that doing illegal business with Xu Zongheng. Some writers say that if one official is doing this kind of business in such a big city, there must be more officials are doing the same business in other smaller city. Money can hoodwink part of the officials’ eyes. They will forget their original mission when standing in front of the money. Because money can give them whatever they want, they are willing to use the illegal way to earn money.

However, among all of the big corruption cases, none of them is exposed by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China. It is confusing the people. What has the department done for so long? Do they have some hidden rules under table? Maybe the department already knows it for a long time, they just hiding the truth. Chinese people are disappointed. At this point, people will think that they still can find the Supreme People’s Court of the Republic of China, but it makes no difference.

The Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China is claimed to be the highest authorities where can easier to be reached by common people. It is called petitioning when you find out some corruption case and want to ask for help from the higher level authorities in China. However, here is just as hard as the other departments to reach. If a person wants to sue an official on the highest court in Beijing, he/she has to suffer a lot before he/she can get there. Gangs are hired to beat them up, to threaten them or even to kill them.

Even though they can make it to Beijing and put the case on record, it does not mean they can win. Only 3% of the corruption cases in China can successfully put the officials in jail. The two biggest departments which can stand out for the truth do not seem to doing their jobs as they should. People do not trust the government anymore and are tired to fight back.

Then, the officials will be happy in their mind because they think it is ok to have corruption since the departments will help them and the people do not care anymore. According to Minxin Pei, “As long as the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection remains in-transparent, and as long as the government continues to limit the role of the media and NGOs in maintaining government integrity, corruption would still be one of the largest threats to China’s future.” (2007)

The government is giving out enough transparency for the citizens to trust the system. Pei also points out “The odds of a corrupt official going to jail are less than three percent, making corruption a high-return, low-risk activity.” (2007) The officials know it. This is the wrong massage the government is sending out. It seems like the system allows the officials to corrupt. It is a culture within the government. If you do not join the corruption group, you will be kicked out of the group because the others are afraid of you will announce the truth. It is very hard to change this situation when most of the officials are involved.

(Retrieved from Moreover, to avoid corruption completely is very hard and we should do it step by step. From the chart above, we can see that the government is trying hard to control the corruption cases and make it decrease in the recent years. We can use new rules and directives to limit the corruption and try to lower the level of it. It is impossible to change the whole situation at once. The only way to solve this problem is to take it slow and stably. It is hard to say no to corruption in a developing country like China. I am not saying it is a right thing, but it is a necessary road for China to step up into a higher level.

When Deng Xiaoping comes up with a theory that “let part of the people get rich first,” (1985) it is already implying that China has to be developed no matter using which kind of method. Corruption is one way to motivate the officials’ energy to work for the government. Therefore, at the beginning of the economic reformation, corruption is everywhere and the government seems to accept its appearance. Why did Deng’s reforms lead to corruption?

There are many reasons. The tempting environment is, of course, the main reason. At that time, the laws of corruption are not as completed as now. People are afraid of the punishments, but when they compare to the personal gain they can get from the corruption, most of them would rather take the risk to get rich.

Also, people can no long be satisfied by the ideological education since the economic reform. Because it is getting unfair in some people’s eyes when they see the part of people who get rich first, they will have thoughts like we should be as rich as the others. Then, they will take risk to do the illegal moves. Material interest becomes the most important way to satisfy the officials. Another important reason is that the government officials are distracted from the original responsibility to profit-making organization. It is the system that gives chances to the officials to corrupt. However, in the recent 10 years, China realizes that the corruption problem has gone too far and they started to pay attention on it.

As we said, it takes time and patient to change a system in a big country like China. Forming a system is very difficult, the only thing we can do when we are not satisfied by the system is to give advises and wait for the changes. As a developing country, we cannot ask it to change right away, but we can give it enough spaces and time to change step by step. At least, this part of China has left us a good point to study about China. Maybe in the future, we will find out that corruption has helped China in some way.

Reference, (2005, November 11). What is Misappropriateion? Retrieved from Huang Qiong, (2010, May 11). The head of the Educational Department is caught for bribery, and more than one hundred of schools’ head masters surrender themselves. Retrieved from John Garnaut, (2010, January 9). Corruption in China growing at least as fast as the economy. Retrieved from Minxin Pei, (2007, October).

Corruptions Threatens China’s Future. Retrieved from Michael Johnston, (1996). Corruption in China: Old Ways, New Realities, and a Troubled Future. Retrieved from Vincent Lo, (2004). Guanxi, An Important Chinese Business Element. Retrieved from Zhou Pengan, Jiang Xiaodong, (2009). Why does the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China loss their voice in the serious corruption cases? Retrieved from