Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Curbing military corruption should continue

By Xu Guangyu (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-29 13:59

Curbing military corruption should continue

Wang Qishan (center), a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, addresses a conference on the work of central-level Party inspection in Beijing, China, Feb 11, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua] 

The anti-corruption campaign in the military since 2013 has exposed 38 officers at the corps level or above. Among them, the most high-profile is Xu Caihou, former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, top commanding body of the People's Liberation Army.

It should not come as a surprise if other big tigers, or senior-level corrupt officials, are found in the PLA in the future, because the country's top leadership has made it clear that it is determined to root out corruption from the military.

Some worry that the anti-corruption drive could harm the military because so many senior officers have fallen that it is difficult to replace them immediately, and military posts remaining vacant for long periods is not good. The logic could not be more absurd.

Corruption has existed in the PLA for long, and if the country's leadership continues to turn a blind eye to facts, it could cause some permanent damage to the military. The PLA has a glorious history of 88 years, which can be marred by nothing but corruption.

Another illogical opinion is that military officers and soldiers might lose confidence when they see so many corrupt officers put under investigation. The fact is, as long as corruption exists there is no way to prevent ordinary soldiers from sensing it, and when every soldier knows the reality and realizes that the military authorities have failed to take corrective measures, they will truly lose confidence in the armed forces.

Some also claim that such a large number of corrupt military officers could damage the PLA's image both at home and abroad. Of course, the exposure of corrupt military officers is a huge scandal for the PLA, and some international speculators are already trying to blow up the anti-corruption campaign out of proportion.

But as an old Chinese saying goes, "When you find you have lost your sheep, you better mend the fences rather than sit idle." Since it is an indisputable fact that corruption exists in the PLA and it is quite serious, the rational choice for the military authorities is to curb it, instead of acting as if the military was clean.

The hunting down of corrupt military officers is also a prerequisite for the modernization and strengthening of the PLA. If the corrupt officers continue to occupy key positions, part of the yearly military budget, which comes from taxpayers' money, would only find its way into their dirty hands instead of being used to strengthen the military's capability to defend the nation.

If the anti-corruption campaign had been launched one or two years earlier, maybe we wouldn't have so many corrupt officers, and if it was launched two years later, perhaps we wouldn't have enough clean officers to hunt down the corrupt ones.

As the anti-corruption campaign continues, it is highly possible that senior military leaders like Xu's former colleagues might join the list of the corrupt. It is necessary to keep in mind that the focus on "corruption" actually prevents corruption from spreading further.

Besides, the hunting down of so many corrupt officers highlights the necessity of establishing an effective corruption-prevention mechanism in the long run. It is time to introduce supervision over the military, so that those who continue sucking the blood of the soldiers can be identified and punished. Also, the new supervision system should include a mechanism to balance power, a modern auditing procedure and encourage free speech so that people can speak against corruption when they sense it.

The PLA will celebrate its 88th birthday soon, and we expect it to become clean enough so as to honor its history.

The author is a senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

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