Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Whither goes the anti-graft drive

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-01 08:05

Where is China's anti-corruption campaign headed? Will there be more of the same or will it lead to a revamp in governance? Discussions on these questions have gained strength since former national security chief Zhou Yongkang was put under investigation on charges of corruption.

For some, the entrapment of the biggest "tiger" (suspected corrupt official) has raised hope of government reform and the establishment of a permanent anti-corruption mechanism. Others, however, think it's too early to be so optimistic despite the leadership announcing that it would hold a high-level conference later this year to promote the rule of law.

Let's see what the former group believes in. Sun Liping, a professor at Tsinghua University, a sociologist and critic of the government's social policies, is among the optimistic lot. In his recent blog, he says: "I see cracks bursting on the wall that blocks the progress of reform." The wall he refers to is the wall of vested interests, or officials and their privileged friends and family members who habitually use China's market-oriented reform to line their pockets.

Corruption, officials' involvement in it and protection of the corrupt, is only one aspect of a larger problem, which includes monopoly of the market and resources, and making extra money from land acquisition programs. Such interests are so deeply entrenched in the system that conventional anti-corruption measures will not be able to uproot them. Worse, perhaps, they could mobilize stubborn resistance which is likely to get the support of all those who fear a possible loss of their privileges. A case in point is the widespread opposition to officials' disclosure of their assets.

Sun says the ongoing anti-corruption campaign has dealt a powerful blow to the privileged groups and has thus made it possible to institutionalize some government reform measures. "At least, no one has dared to openly oppose the adoption of a new reform measure, such as restricting the use of official cars." Also, ordinary people are becoming more confident of the central leadership's determination to root out corruption. They have welcomed the developments and are ready to back the leadership's campaign.

There is a dilemma, though, Sun says. The vested interests are so powerful that only a strong, concentrated power can defeat them, but concentration of power in any individual or organization could raise concerns about its misuse.

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