Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has highlighted the seriousness of China’s official malfeasance. The outcome of Xi’s campaign will shape a new era of China’s politics, economy and foreign policy.
‘Corruption’ covers quite disparate phenomena with different consequences. It may mean graft, which is taking a tip—even a multimillion dollar one—for doing your job, or it may mean corruption in the stricter sense, taking money in return for undermining national policy or the national interest. When a Chinese official gets a large illegal kickback for building a good road, that is graft.
Chinese ‘corruption’ is overwhelmingly graft, whereas, for instance, in the Philippines under former president Ferdinand Marcos and in India, corruption in the narrow sense predominates. How can we tell? We can do case studies.
In the Philippines, for instance, many important projects were designed to fail. A hotelier would borrow US$100 million with a government guarantee, then steal US$40 million for personal use and let the hotel go bankrupt during an economic downturn, leaving the government with the debt. That is corruption.
Beyond case studies is the Biblical saying: ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’. In China, good roads and ports get built, consistently. In India they don’t. Likewise with primary education, and with games like the Olympics and the Asian Games. In China graft predominates, while in India corruption predominates.
Copyright: EAST ASIA FORUM QUARTERLY