Rising Powers’ Efforts to Stamp Corruption: The Chinese Case

BRICS efforts to stamp corruption in all its forms and shapes is an essential factor for achieving a number of objectives: strengthening state-systems, societal enablement and national human development. Furthermore, such strenuous, risky and long drawn efforts to stamp corruption “if permitted and endorsed” can go a long way in restoring the image of honesty, integrity, and international trust to the Rising Powers systems and policies. From this perspective, analysing the Chinese model of anti-corruption become of a paramount importance because the 2nd World Economy Country of 1.4 billion has produced a number of salient high economic indicators: [GDP = $19.4 trillion, 6.9% growth, 7.8 % compound annual growth and $14,107 per capita).

The Chinese President Xi Jinbing stated vividly and assertively that: “The [Chinese] people resent corruption the most, and corruption is the greatest threat our Party faces…We must remain as firm as a rock in our resolve to build on the overwhelming momentum and secure a sweeping victory.” This decisive statement comes in response to criticism waged by the head of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). Thus, Wang Qishan “has blasted President Ji Jinbing and the Chinese government’s lack of progress in eradicating corruption since he took power five years ago.” Ironically and admittedly this strong criticism comes days after the CPC issued revised regulations on internal party inspections as part of a “renewed campaign to improve supervision and governance of its 89-million strong membership”.

Admittedly though the earlier mentioned criticism has accepted that anti-corruption efforts are important to assert a stronger momentum to approach the final conclusion is still far away endeavour. Hence, it is informative to realize that heritage organization has generated a new index of economic freedom for 2017 highlighting a number of concerns/challenges confronting the 2nd largest World Economy. The initial vigorous statement indicated that: “China’s economy remains [mostly unfree] and there is little momentum for reform”. However in simultaneous terms it characterizes the state of Chinese economy as “nominally open to trade and investment”. Such structural economic constraints are closely related to two basic barriers adversely affecting Chinese economic development: “bureaucratic hurdles, and resistance from vested interests in the state sector”.

Furthermore one may witness other negative ramifications due to central economic slowdown in the form of “increased expansionary fiscal and monetary interventions”.  The eventual concrete result indicated that in the last 5 years China has incurred relatively large debts. Thus, “the total national debt (household, corporate, and government) has approached 300 percent of GDP a level comparable to crisis –ridden southern Europe”. From this perspective, China’s anti-corruption campaign became effective gaining thereby “public popularity” whilst Chinese economic growth and spending were reduced. Nevertheless, across the previous five years (2012-2017) substantive concrete Chinese anti-corruption numerical results were published:

  • 537 million officials punished
  • 3,453 overseas corrupt fugitives arrested
  • 51 0f 100 most wanted economic fugitives on Interpol’s Red Notice captured

It is important to acknowledge that as China strives to implement “One Belt One Road” strategic outlook more than 60 states became associated with this prominent strategic project whilst focussing on curbing corruption in all fields and dimensions. It is informative to assert that the 2000-year old Silk Road critical network “of trade routes that promoted economic, political, and cultural exchange among Asia, Africa and Europe” has taken a more comprehensive innovative outlook. From this perspective, “China’s new Silk Road Economic Belt” in conjunction with “Twenty-First Century Maritime Silk Road” will increasingly enhance and facilitate “the flow of trade, investment, culture and ideas-and thus supporting shared economic growth.”

This is why new legal regulations to curb corruption were closely related to financing “one belt and one road” various inter-linked projects. Along this line of analysis, “China as the leading promoter of the [one belt, one road] initiative must take steps to ensure that businesses act responsibly.” But moreover, “the central [Chinese] government will have to regulate and coordinate sub-national governments effectively, while working to ensure that competition is fair and constructive.” With all the important active and effective steps to stamp corruption, China’s government is still a long way from eradicating corruption in all its main forms. However, a number of selected concrete results should be asserted as follows:  “public disclosure of assets by officials, creating genuinely independent oversight bodies, or lifting political constraints on journalist and law enforcement agencies.” If China can present a successful model for stamping corruption in a comprehensive manner then it is expected that other countries may be tempted to build similar tendencies (i.e. BRICS states).

However, Chinese leaders are fully aware of the various ramifications and risks associated with pursuing an inclusive effective anti-corruption campaign that may backfire or fail to produce tangible results. Another field that needs to be seriously tackled is the military whereby  “the Chinese People’ Liberation Army (PLA) has experienced monumental changes- shifting from an institution rife with corruption to a force advancing in high tech warfighting capabilities”. To what extent or in what percentage terms the scope of corruption in the military field has been reduced or constraint is still a question that should be debated or further explored. Admittedly, the overall results of Chinese anti-corruption campaign seems to be impressive though it is still a long way from totally eradicating corruption in all its various forms.

This is why there is a dire need for Chinese leaders to invest in a new culture of sustainable honesty and integrity at both the governmental and popular levels. Learning from the lessons of history and from the relatively successful experiences of anti-corruption campaigns by other Rising Powers can also present a new roadmap aimed at reducing or constraining corruption.

Finally, combating corruption can greatly help in eliminating international terrorism. Admittedly, both corruption and terrorism are two faces of a unitary currency. Clearly and more significantly, each of the BRICS states has its own story to tell on stamping corruption at all dimensions in comparative terms.

Ahmad Shikara

Member of the faculty at the EmiratesCenter for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi since 2000. There he works in the Training Department and in Human Resources. He recently published on the ramifications of Iraqi elections. In the past he conducted extensive research at the ECSSR and has conducted graduate and faculty seminars focusing on the effect of resource scarcity on the Arabian Gulf and the United States. Dr. Shikara, and before joining the ECSSR, served on the Political Science Department at the United Arab Emirates University (1980-1994), as an honorary professor at the Institute of Developing Economies in Japan (1994) and as a research fellow in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand (1996-2000).

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