China increases its efforts to reduce corruption in public office

President Xi Jinping is expanding China's anti-graft campaign to ensure the credibility of its public offices.

According to Xiao Geng, president of the Hong Kong Institution for International Finance, tackling corruption in China could be the “toughest challenge,” faced by the country’s president, Xi Jinping. Although in the last five years, Xi’s “anti-graft campaign … has resulted in the dismissal, sanction, or other punishment,” of thousands of officials at the provincial, municipal, county and village levels, “the initiative is far from over,” writes Geng.

Both Xi and the Communist Party understand “the potential of corruption to undermine [their] legitimacy,” says Geng, and as a result, the Party has “endorsed the creation of a National Supervision Commission” to ensure scrutiny of “all officials exercising public power.”

Peng admits that this won’t be easy, however, and cites the US Supreme Court’s 2010 decision to allow corporations and unions to “spend unlimited sums anonymously to help secure the election or defeat of individual candidates,” as proof of “the enduring ability of corrupt officials to capture” institutions designed to maintain accountability. “Outside spending in the 2016 election cycle reached nearly $1.4 billion in 2016,” points out Geng, compared [to] less than $100 million in the 2006 cycle.”

“Corruption is not just a failure of the state,” writes Geng, “it is also closely linked to the failure of market, legal, and ideological systems.” “Markets can work efficiently only with the guidance of a competent, honest and fair state,” he writes, but “if the concentrated economic and social power that financial markets and network economies tend to create can be used to capture and control political power, an effective system of checks and balances becomes virtually impossible.” For China’s president, ensuring “effective protections against abuses and graft,” starts with modernising mechanisms for resolving civil disputes,” says Geng, and “raising the pay of public servants at all levels.”

Read more about China’s efforts to reduce corruption in “The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption,” written by Xiao Geng, and published by Project Syndicate on November 23, 2017.