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Next stage in graft fight

Updated: 2013-12-13 07:00
( China Daily)

The successive moves to fight corruption and extravagance are credible signs that Chinese leaders want substantial changes in officialdom.

The initiative to "standardize" leading officials' use of public housing and vehicles is the latest follow-up to the eight rules Party leader Xi Jinping and his colleagues put forward during their first days in office.

Their call for style changes and prohibiting waste and extravagance has resulted in a de facto decline in the "high end" catering industry. In spite of reports about officials shifting into "stealth mode", many luxury eateries, which relied heavily on expensive banquets financed by public money, are now having to woo ordinary diners to survive.

The new proposal to regulate officials' use of public vehicles and housing has seen a swift response in the provinces.

Central China's Hubei province, for one, has reportedly taken back 712 units of housing previously occupied by officials in violation of rules, as well as more than 1,000 vehicles. And that was reportedly just the "first-stage".

At present the move is targeted specifically at the residences officials have been assigned while working in different localities and on different jobs. But, even so, a truthful account of the situation may still prove stunning, because this has been an under-regulated gray area for too long.

The proposed official residence mechanism, which is yet to be finalized, may put an end to many of today's troubles. But before that, the Party's disciplinary apparatus will have to overcome tremendous resistance to obtain a clear picture of who has what. After all, this challenges a true vested interest.

The Party's central disciplinary watchdog said that through such special actions it wants to gradually eliminate the excessive privileges extended to public servants. Which is in line with first dealing with the outward symptoms of corruption.

In a January speech, Wang Qishan, the Party's top corruption buster, stated that by treating the symptoms now, the Party is buying time to treat the root causes.

For the general public, each of the recent moves, from banning expensive official banquets to regulating the use of public housing and vehicles, needs to be seen to be making a tangible and meaningful difference.

The only question they have is: How long will the moves last?

Wang promises the momentum will not ebb, it will be sustained "one stage after another".

That is exactly what people want to see.

(China Daily 12/13/2013 page8)