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"Social corruption" warrants tighter law
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-18 13:43

Lucent Technologies last week removed the president, chief operating officer, a marketing executive and a finance manager of its China operations for their possible roles in a suspected bribery case, or for "internal control deficiencies," as the company chose to word the incident in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

When reporting the case, Reuters quoted a risk management expert as saying many multinational companies believe bribery, kickbacks and corruption are "part of the culture and part of society" in China.

As details of the affair have not been made public and no evidence has been given to substantiate the claim, it is too early, and virtually impossible, to comment on the case.

But the above-mentioned comment about Chinese culture and society is thought-provoking.

I disagree with the comment, and contend corruption has not become part of Chinese culture.

Culture, when used to describe a nation and/or its principles, is something that has evolved over a long time in history to become an established, common quality of the country and its people.

So far, there has been no evidence to verify the claim that corruption has become a culture in our social fabric.

However, I do think corruption is corroding almost every sector in society.

For example, government departments levy unreasonable fees on companies and residents; business administrative authorities trade their power for "complimentary money;" quality control authorities force certain products on qualification applicants; hospitals prescribe unnecessary medicine to receive kickbacks from drug manufacturers; and schools charge "sponsorship fees" on students from outside the jurisdiction.

It is important to note money raised through such levies does not end up in officials' pockets; rather, it goes into the institutions' "collective coffers," which are hidden from State taxation and which are used to provide to all members of the institutions.

Sociologists call that phenomenon "social corruption." It differs from corrupt officials taking bribes. The latter is an unequivocal crime, while the former seems to be accepted by many people as less shameful because the money is shared by the groups' members.

That is far worse, as it indicates our collective morality is degenerating.

People in each trade try to use the exclusive advantages bestowed on them by their professions to exploit other members of society. When this becomes a common practice, laws and social norms usually appear impotent.

We are not at such a critical point, but the situation is worth worrying about.

In the past, when China had a centrally planned economy, the government was very strong and tightly regulated society. Corrupt officials were severely punished, and people obeyed government decrees and social norms conscientiously.

Economic reform has brought about liberalism, while it has emancipated the productive force. People's minds have been liberalized, while the government's arbitrary power has been greatly weakened.

As a result, "social corruption" has become a more pronounced problem.

China must depend on laws to correct the situation.

The problem now, however, is China's laws are inadequate: They are incomplete and not specific. Too many loopholes exist.

China must speed up the process of making laws, and officials and citizens must enhance their sense of law and order. That is the only means for a final solution of the problem.

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