Opinion / Liu Shinan

Trade in power and money harms the nation

By Liu Shinan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-15 07:44

When the corruption case of Gu Junshan, former deputy head of the logistics department of the People's Liberation Army, was made public earlier this year, I was shocked by the fact, revealed by insiders, that the lieutenant general and veteran Communist Party member "never believed in the political creed" of the atheist party but instead "worshipped ghosts and deities".

Anxious to decriminalize and safeguard the wealth he had garnered through embezzlement and bribery, Gu often invited fortunetellers and sorceresses to his home for advice. He built an imposing tomb for his father at a site said to have good feng shui in the hope of bringing good luck to his family. After he was arrested, he hid a piece of peach wood in his pocket, as the Chinese words for peach and escape are homophones - both are pronounced tao.

Since my childhood in the early 1950s, my generation was told that communists should devote their lives to the service of the Chinese people and should draw strength and confidence from this political creed. So I wondered how such a man as Gu who hadn't the least trait of communism in his character could have been promoted to such a high rank and entrusted with such great power.

"Shouldn't the persons who had promoted Gu all the way to such a vital position be held accountable for the ridiculous personnel management?" I thought.

Now I know how naive I was to think so. It is not a question of whether the personnel management was ridiculous or reasonable but rather a more worrying trend - the buying and selling of official posts.

From what has been revealed, we have learned that money has been the main stepping stone for Gu and his like to climb up the hierarchical ladder and the amount of money (including gold in the literal sense) involved in Gu's embezzlement and bribery was "particularly enormous". Officers at higher positions who have been sacked in the recent anti-graft storms include Xu Caihou, former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The Political Bureau met on June 30 and decided to expel Xu from the Party. The decision announced by Party chief Xi Jinping said Xu "was suspected of taking bribes".

Also expelled from the Party on the same day were three other senior officials - vice-public security minister Li Dongsheng, the State-owned assets supervision and management commission minister Jiang Jiemin and PetroChina vice-president Wang Yongchun, all for "taking huge sums in bribes". Dozens of high-ranking officials - above the ministerial level - have been ferreted out since the new central leadership launched its anti-corruption campaign last year.

Although details of the corruption cases will not usually be available until the official investigation is finished, it is safe to say that most of them involved "trade between power and money". And a major part of that "trade" is the selling of official posts.

A typical case is that of He Weilin, former executive vice-mayor of Pingxiang, Jiangxi province. The veteran official was called the local officialdom's "godfather". The power strongman used his good offices to "help" several hundred officials gain promotion. His influence in the city was once demonstrated in a most spectacular way. The fleet of cars carrying local officials coming to celebrate his father's 80th birthday extended several miles on the highway leading to his home.

If all officials were bonded by such a money-forged brotherhood, the Party would become irreversibly corrupt. This is a worrying prospect should the trend not be checked.

Fortunately, the central authorities have seen the danger and have taken action in earnest. It is obvious that the anti-corruption campaign has been expedited lately, especially in the past few weeks. One or two high-ranking officials are removed from their posts and placed under criminal investigation each week.

We have seen the central leadership's resolve to win the campaign. And in this lies the hopes of the nation.

The author is assistant editor-in-chief of China Daily. liushinan@chinadaily.com.cn

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