Corruption harms competitiveness, cannot be allowed to taint the youth

Updated: 2013-10-19 08:20

By Eddy Li (HK Edition)

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Corruption harms competitiveness, cannot be allowed to taint the youth

Corruption has been a ubiquitous problem for the Chinese mainland. Since I was appointed as a member of the CPPCC more than 15 years ago, there have been three changes of State leadership. Every new government attaches great importance to anti-corruption, but, after all the severe measures, the phenomenon still remains, and with tenacious vitality. Since the 18th Party Congress, at least nine dignitaries have been exposed for corruption, including Li Chuncheng, deputy Party chief of Sichuan province.

Some consider the cases part of the strict measures introduced by a new administration, but from my perspective, it's high time that government stood fast in fighting corruption, for it has become intolerable. The past three decades have witnessed China become the second-largest economy in the world, but the rock-ribbed embezzlement has already obstructed our steps forward in economic and technological development and generated social contradictions and conflicts.

Economically speaking, the latest Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 by the World Economic Forum, ranked China 29th, leading the BRICS, but said its weakness lies in severe corruption, low responsibility and inferior business ethics.

Soaring property and labor prices and the premium of RMB have led to a surge in business costs for corporations. Compared with Southeast Asian countries, China no longer has the edge in competitive cost. Worse still, if not properly solved, corrupt morals will aggravate the burden companies must pay for bribery with no upper limits.

One of the reasons for the success of some foreign companies is that corporate human and capital resources are intensively used in product quality assurance and innovation project development. Whereas, in China, the corporate profits are nibbled up by the corrupt officials at various government levels, thus the remaining funds are not sufficient for improvements. In order to ingratiate themselves with the related officials, some companies even abandon the basic product quality, resulting in numerous food safety incidents and jerry-built projects. Therefore, anti-corruption is the top priority in achieving higher competitiveness.

This is a painful and lengthy process, but an imperative task. The new leaders understand clearly the hazards of the issue, especially when the Chinese economic structure is undergoing adjustment.

Even more distressing is the fact that this kind of public moral has entered the children's campus, jeopardizing the country's youngest generation and having a far-reaching influence on the future of both. Recently, a friend of mine shared his experience of sending his children to school on the mainland. The seriousness of the problem is noteworthy: in many cities, parents have to bribe teachers or principals for better treatment of their children, starting from kindergartens and elementary schools. At the very beginning, my friend didn't know the "custom", so his child was not paid much attention. Later on, he discovered the monitors, or head boys in class, were privileged because their parents had already sent "gifts" to the teachers. Catering to the need of parents, some companies even launch a so-called "Teacher's Day Shopping Card", a convenience bribe.

The one-child policy has worsened the phenomenon as parents are willing to spend large amounts of money on their kin. Some elite schools charge a 50,000 to 100,000 yuan ($8,200 to $16,400) "sponsorship fee" for non-local students or local students with poor academic records.

Earlier this year, a pupil hit a teacher in a primary school causing a sensation in society. The motive for the attack was that the teacher failed the student for accepting a bribe. But if brought up under such an influence as now, the young generation of the country will take it for granted that bribery and corruption is normal. Children are led by example through their education paths. As the saying goes, he that lies down with dogs must rise up with fleas. The anti-corruption action of the central government should pay special attention to children's education, so as to prevent the phenomenon from the very source - the notion of a Chinese.

The author is vice-president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong.

(HK Edition 10/19/2013 page6)