We recently talked about China’s bizarre ‘hit-and-run corruption” — how up to 18,000 Chinese officials and public employees have stolen $120 billion and fled the country.
As we said, the story appeared briefly on the People’s Bank of China website, then disappeared.
But the story isn’t dead.
Ben Heineman Jr. wrote about it in the Atlantic Monthly. He made a chilling connection between China’s corruption and the growing number of civil protests breaking out across the country.
Meaningful steps to reduce widespread corruption will depend on transparency, accountability and rule of law, not just government anti-corruption rhetoric, the occasional sanctioning of a high official and party discipline hidden from legal view. Thus, the recent news reports on corruption and protests noted at the beginning of this piece reflect the broader dilemma. Can China build a meaningful system of law and legal institutions — not just a quasi-Potemkin village of laws on the books and of lawyers and judges often controlled still by — or ignored by — political forces? Or, without law, will it watch widespread corruption continue, in turn generating burgeoning protests at the local — and perhaps national — level?
No one wants to see China flung into chaos by massive protests. But the problems there will only grow worse as long as officials keep helping themselves to the public till.