Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Whither goes the anti-graft drive

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

The key to China's successful development, he says, is to simultaneously take forward the anti-corruption campaign and government reform. "Fighting corruption is the first step and building up the rule of law the second. The second is more important, for it is a prerequisite for laying the foundation for a good government system, and cleansing the environment in which corruption grows. But taking the second step won't be possible without the first."

An article in People's Daily says the Fourth Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, scheduled for October, has set "the rule of law" as its central theme. The timing could not have been better, it says, for the anti-corruption campaign has earned society's widespread support for the Chinese leadership. To put corruption under more effective check, it is time to introduce an institutional solution.

Sun agrees, saying that the anti-corruption campaign could actually mark the beginning of a whole new enterprise to build China's future.

Now for the skeptics, some of whom say Sun may be too optimistic too early. Zhao Chu, a research scholar with Shanghai National Defense Strategy Research Institute, says the campaign has relied mainly on the same system to fight corruption that has brewed it, a system in which people and social organizations still don't have enough of a role to play.

The working of power is yet to show a difference between what it was before and after the anti-corruption campaign. Some corrupt officials may have been exposed and brought to justice, but the working of power has continued to be shrouded in opacity and secrecy, Zhao has written in his micro blog in a debate with Sun.

As political participation and public supervision are yet to grow, the arrest of corrupt officials may even serve to consolidate the privileges of certain groups, which runs counter to the very logic of the anti-corruption campaign and could delay the progress of the reform. "Only by allowing people and social organizations to exercise more rights can true reform begin," Zhao says, adding that Sun's wishes are well-intended illusions.

It is important to not only remove corrupt officials from the system, but also change the environment in which they used to operate, says Jia Lizheng in People's Tribune, a magazine run by People's Daily. "It's just like you need to check if there is water pollution if a huge number of fish die."

China is still some distance away from an institutional change that can guarantee the long-term success of the anti-corruption campaign, says Lin Zhe, a professor of anti-corruption studies at the Central Party School, in his response to what should be done after former security chief Zhou was put under investigation.

Let the reforms roll for the answer.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

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