Thursday, December 6, 2012

The worst are easier to replace than the best

My article The worst are easier to replace than the best appeared in today's Edit Page of The Pioneer

In China, corruption in politics is as high as, or even higher than, in India. It has become the subject of a national debate. Many corrupt Chinese have reportedly fled their country. Is this good riddance?

India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal probably believes that Indian babus and politicians are the most corrupt in the world. A couple of weeks ago, Mr Kejriwal released a list of 10 persons, including a politician and a few heads of corporate houses, having accounts with HSBC Bank which is alleged to conduct ‘hawala’ transactions. He even accused them of keeping some crores of rupees in Swiss vaults. According to the IAC, their names are part of a list of 700 people who are clients of the HSBC bank in Switzerland. The IAC members declared that it was the tip of the ice-berg.
But in this, like many other domains, China is doing far ‘better’ (or worse) than India. Mr Xi Jinping, the new Chinese Communist Party boss will have several challenges to tackle in the years to come, but the most serious is certainly the corruption of Party cadres. On November 15, after his election at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party, the future President (and Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission) spoke about the CCP’s challenges:“… many pressing problems within the Party that need to be resolved, particularly problems such as corruption”. In another speech, he said: “Worsening corruption’s only outcome will be the end of the party and the end of the State.” He likened graft to “worms breeding in decaying matter.” This was a rare admission.
A few weeks ago, a Chinese airline in its way to New York was called back to Beijing after eight hours in the air. Nobody knows why, but the Internet rumour mill started buzzing: An official of the Politburo fleeing China was one of possible scenarios. The airline wrote on its Weibo microblog shortly after landing: “The flight returned to Beijing for the sake of passenger safety as it received a threatening message”. The pilot informed the passengers that everyone needed to go through ‘inspection’. One passenger commented: “I have never seen so many police officers waiting at the runway”.
A few days earlier, the Chinese Press had given some information about officials fleeing the country. China Economic Weekly, the domestic economic magazine under The People’s Daily published an article on Communist Party officials leaving China with large amounts of money. It cited statistics released last year by China’s Academy of Social Science affirming that between 16,000 to 18,000 Party officials have fled the country since the mid-1990s, taking away with them 800 billion yuan.
A Report of the People’s Bank of China, giving similar figures, suggested that dishonest officials had clandestinely taken $124 billion of illegally obtained money out of the country between 1995 and 2008. Between August 3 and 5, 2003, a day before the coming into force of the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime in China, Chinese customs authorities arrested over 60 officials trying to leave China (one of them carrying 600,000 Euros). The two UN conventions became effective in China on September 29, 2003. The next night, 51 Party officials were arrested at airports while trying to escape.
The website recently published an article on “China’s Third Wave of Mass Emigration”. The first emigration wave, in the early 1980s, was for studying overseas and earning higher degrees. The second wave, in the 1990s, was emigration of professionals. China is now witnessing a third wave. explained: “In recent years, most emigrants have been the newly rich Chinese, who use investments to migrate to other countries. Some of them are entrepreneurs whose purpose is to protect their wealth. Others are CCP officials who escaped from China with huge amounts of public funds. In addition, the family members of many business owners and CCP officials live overseas.”
The article affirmed, “When those [ordinary Chinese] with money, leave, they can only take their wealth with them. However, the damage when officials emigrate is much greater. They not only take away their wealth, but also rob and poison this country.”
In this field also, India with its few hundred Swiss bank accounts is no match for China. During an eight-day period from September 30 to October 7 this year, over 1,100 public servants who travelled abroad did not return: “When given the chance, officials of the People’s Republic of China continue to rush for the exits.” The Epoch Times quoted a statement issued on October 15 by the Party: “The celebrations of National Day (the anniversary of the founding of the PRC) and the Moon Festival (the traditional holiday during which Chinese families reunite) were the occasions for officials fleeing.”
According to Hong Kong-based Chengming Magazine, China’s State Council established a temporary Command Group Against Public Servants Fleeing under the chairmanship of Mr Li Keqiang, the soon-to-be Premier. Apparently the group issued four orders to be implemented by the Party. The first was, “Have good control over every staff member’s situation and plans.” Easier said than done! The Group also decided to increase the staff guarding key seaports, airports, and borders. Some 8,000 special police were posted in these sensitive places and new technological gadgets were installed to detect counterfeit passports.
On December 2, Xinhua reported that the new boss of the Party’s discipline watchdog has vowed to further strengthen the supervision of Party cadres. Mr Wang Qishan, Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection who has been promoted to the Politburo’s Standing Committee asserted: “Trust can never replace supervision.”Mr Wang had recently invited a group of anti-corruption experts from universities and Government think-tanks to provide the Party with inputs how to tackle the scourge. One of the conclusions was to publicise officials’ assets to prevent corruption. Will this help?
On November 30, Xinhua said that the Disciplinary Committee of Shandong Province had started an investigation into the behaviour of Mr Shan Zhende, a Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture. The inquiry was triggered by a letter by Mr Shan to his mistress promising that he would divorce his wife and marry her. A week earlier, Mr Lei Zhengfu, a District Party Secretary in Chongqing had to step down after a sex tape, in which he was seen with an 18-year-old girl, went viral on the Net. In the same article, Xinhua quoted statistics from the Central Disciplinary Committee that showed that 95 per cent of problem officials have mistresses, commenting, “We can’t simply rely on the issue of mistresses to crack down on corruption.”
At the same time, the Qiushi Journal, a bi-weekly magazine published by the Central Committee called the US presidential election a ‘money show’ as this year’s election ‘burned’ the largest amount of money in history (about $6 billion). The article concludes that ‘money election’ allows the rich people to control the US; it speaks of the ‘capitalisation of democracy’ orchestrated by Wall Street. In conclusion, it suggests that the Chinese model is far superior. But is it really?
Don’t ask me what would happen if all the corrupt babus and politicians exit India, though I think that in the present yug, the country will probably be able to reproduce most of them in no time.

No comments: