Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

How to take the anti-graft drive forward

By Ed Zhang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-25 08:50

The Chinese media and the Internet are full of speculations on how the top leadership will continue the anti-corruption campaign after putting former security chief Zhou Yongkang under investigation. A former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Zhou is the highest-ranking official facing investigation for corruption since the launch of reform in the late 1970s. As Chinese often say, Zhou is the "biggest tiger" to be trapped in the anti-corruption net.

Although people have welcomed the probe against Zhou, they are asking what turns will the anti-corruption campaign and the overall political development take now? Will the campaign taper off? And what long-term effects will the anti-corruption campaign leave?

The official press is busy trying to answer these questions. Shortly after Zhou was put under investigation, a commentary on went on to say hunting down a "big tiger" cannot be the ultimate goal of the crackdown on corruption. Instead, the goal should be to use the opportunity to deepen government reforms, and to wipe out bad officials' influence in ways prescribed by the law. The power vacuum created by the anti-corruption campaign must be filled through institutional methods.

An article on the website of People's Daily has said that after hunting down Zhou, China still has three major battles to fight.

The first battle is to use the Fourth Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee, scheduled for October, to expedite the country's legal development and strengthen the rule of law. In fact, the natural continuation of the anti-corruption campaign is to design effective institutions to prevent the distortion of law in implementation.

The second battle is to redress the inequality in wealth and status in the market, which can be done through reform of State-owned enterprises, which have de facto monopoly over of natural resources, and make them face effective competition.

The market should be strictly regulated to curb what the author of the article in People's Daily calls "feudal capitalism", or crony capitalism. Authorities must make serious efforts, even if they are not more serious than the anti-corruption drive, to encourage "true entrepreneurship" while battling "bureaucratic capitalism" and "barbarian capitalists".

The third battle has to be fought on the international relations front to earn China a larger space for its peaceful rise, the article's author says.

Interestingly, a columnist in Beijing Youth Daily has listed the coming of several trends in the post-Zhou era. One trend is the end of official banquets and extravagance. Those who had become used to the extravagance better forget it, and those who haven't tasted it shouldn't even think about it, the columnist says.

The second trend is for China to have its "sunshine" laws, or laws to make officials declare their personal wealth to the public.

And the third trend is more independence for the judiciary.

An article in Economic Observer, too, says that since the anti-corruption campaign has already accounted for a dozen "big tigers", it is time to build up the law, and quotes President Xi Jinping as saying that there will be due mechanisms to make it impossible for officials to indulge in corruption.

And a commentary on financial information website says that although some corrupt officials have been booked, corruption still exists, as do some longstanding social and economic problems.

It is still too early to claim victory over corruption. People could feel disappointed again if there aren't more effective methods to deal with the problems mentioned above. Therefore, the leadership has to show more tangible results to the people.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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