We have a lot to learn from
“No place has been out of bounds and no grounds left unturned. No tolerance has been shown in the fight against corruption. We have taken firm action to take out tigers, swatted flies and hunted down foxes.” — Xi Jinping The President of People’s Republic China
Since becoming China’s leader in 2012, Xi Jinping has overseen a vast and ruthless anti-corruption drive in which more than a million officials have been disciplined.
A BBC study has found that more than 170 ministers and deputy minister-level officials have been sacked and many jailed under Mr Xi, accused of charges such as corruption, misconduct and violation of party discipline.
A message that came out strongly in President Xi Jinping’s speech in the Great Hall of the People was that the greatest threat to the Communist Party of China (CPC) was corruption. Xi specified that the CPC would focus its oversight on the “key few” – those being leading party officials.
China’s intensifying corruption drive provides useful lessons for Pakistan. The CPC’s zero tolerance for corruption has led to harsh punishment for perpetrators, as the party’s leadership recognises that in order to maintain the trust of the people, the party needs to carry out clean governance.
Over the past five years, Xi’s anti-corruption drive has targeted what it calls “tigers and flies” – that being both high-ranking and low-level officials. Strict governance has been implemented right down to grassroots level and about 648000 village-level officials have been charged with small-scale corruption. Equally as important, several high-ranking officials have also been taken down.
In August, the head of the anti-graft committee for China’s Ministry of Finance was put under investigation for corruption. Similarly, in September a senior military officer who sits on the powerful Central Military Commission overseen by Xi was detained and questioned about corruption. He was sentenced to life in prison for selling top military posts. A former top general and member of the Politburo Standing Committee has also been imprisoned. The former vice-chairperson of the Securities Regulator will also be prosecuted for crimes such as taking bribes.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) just this year received 260000 complaints of corruption, and it is remarkable that of those, 210000 officials have been punished for breaking the code of conduct. That number includes 38 senior officials from government ministries and provincial administrations. Last year 415000 party officials were disciplined for corruption. The CCDI further reported that US$9.36 billion in illegal assets from ill-gotten gains were seized over the last five years.
According to a newspaper report, since members of the CCDI were elected in late 2012, the commission has undertaken a massive campaign against corruption and extravagance.
The commission investigated 280 senior members at or above ministerial level; 66,000 at country chief level; and 8,600 at bureau or department level (one rank below ministerial level); handed over 14,000 to judicial authorities for suspected corruption in 2015; 12,000 in 2014; and 9,600 in 2013. Figures for 2016 were not available; and more than 3,000 fugitives wanted for graft returned to China as of August 1 this year.
Punishment for graft in China is harsh compared to other countries, in that the corruption bar for officials to face the firing squad was until recently 100000 Yuan – the bar raised to 3 million yuan (PKR 45 million) in April this year – although sometimes death sentences can be suspended for two years, and can even be commuted to life imprisonment if there are no additional offences.
There have been cases of sentences being changed from execution to prison if the individual confessed their crime and voluntarily returned their ill-gotten gains – although sometimes there is no possibility of parole.
The lesson we can learn from the CPC and its commitment to its anti-graft campaign is that if we allow corruption to fester, the people will lose faith in those that govern – from whichever party they emanate.