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Why Is China Corrupt?

A commentary this week by writer Bao Gangsheng looked behind China’s ‘collapse of morality’ — evidenced by endless tainted food scandals, unchecked pollution, and fakes everywhere, even the blood sold to hospitals.

State media led by CCTV routinely blames a market economy driven by greedy and unscrupulous businessmen, Bao said.

‘This corresponds perfectly with Marxism,’ according to Bao, ‘still the Chinese Communist Party’s ideological education guideline, where private profits are seen as the driving force to make people willing to trample over the law and the lives of others.’

But, Bao said, that explanation doesn’t work. China’s moral collapse can be seen in every part of life. And if capitalism is to blame, he asked, why aren’t countries in the West that have practiced it for centuries more corrupt than China?

The root cause? After more than thirty years of reforms, the rule of law is still weak or missing.

‘[N]o country where the rule of law is absent,’ Bao wrote, ‘can ever shape a society with good citizens, moral business ethics and social practices.’

His conclusion: Blame not the market economy but the ‘hidden rules which exist in every corner of our society.’

‘If a businessman who manufactures and sells fake medicine does not go broke or go to jail,’ Bao said, ‘but manages to continue his business by bribery and relations, the bad example will obviously be repeated.’


Bao Gangsheng’s commentary (translated from Chinese to English) is called “Markets and Morals: A Chinese Case for Capitalism.” It can be found here.

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