China’s corruption crusade

APPARENTLY, Chinese President Hu Jintao didn’t have just newspaper headlines in mind when he promised a pronounced reduction in official corruption.

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Published: Sun 5 Aug 2007, 8:31 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:51 AM

Almost 2,000 official confessions of corruption, amounting to nearly $10.2 million, indicate last month’s execution of the country’s former food and drug watchdog head was not just a token cleansing act. Nor will the buck stop with the ousting of the Communist Party’s former head in Shanghai last week.

Obviously, the president intends serious action against one of the country’s biggest bottlenecks to sustained progress ahead of the party’s crucial five-yearly congress, which is just around the corner. Till now, the government’s response to burgeoning corruption has not been too impressive. But the one month leniency period over June that prompted massive confessions is going to win it important points in the highest circles.

Importantly, corruption is an evil every society, especially growing economy, needs to be rid of. But China’s case is of far greater consequence. Impediments to its furious growth will not only eat up years of hard work and careful planning, but are sure to come with a downslide with region-wide repercussions, and indeed beyond.

Of course, there will be much more cases of official corruption than those that have willingly come forward. And among those too, there is little doubt that investigation will uncover much more inflated figures. But as Beijing goes about addressing this crucial concern, it must realise that there are other factors too that have no less a bearing on the country’s outlook, economic growth and social fabric.

China continues to be one of the world’s most closed societies, with the state system counting amongst the strictest around. Political and media freedom amount to near-naught and the country’s human rights record is hardly anything to write home about. No doubt the leadership, spearheading the continent’s growth trajectory and setting admirable and enviable precedents, realises these facts better than others, and has remedial measures in store. And as it goes about changing its outlook and ensuring sustainability of the unbelievable economic rise, it is advised to loosen screws on peoples’ freedoms sooner rather than later. Such a course would be in the interest of the people, the Chinese government, their growth momentum and therefore the rest of the Asian region.

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