China Brief
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January 8, 2011 - January 14, 2011

Political and Internal Development

The Chinese central leadership has realized that they cannot afford to fail in controlling rising corruption across the country which is growing as fast as its economy. In the recently held 6th Plenary Session of 17th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), President Hu Jintao said that anti-corruption works still remain a daunting task.

The central government initiated anti-corruption drive as early as in 1996 under the third generation leadership. CPC continued its efforts to curb the rate of corruption perpetrated by the high level government officials and party cadres under the guidance of Hu Jintao. In order to stop corruption in construction for the Olympic Games, the Chinese government had launched a new anti-corruption drive in December 2006 and installed new anti-corruption officials in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities. In 2007, to crackdown nepotism new regulations were introduced which now require officials to report and register jobs held by their relations and also facilitate to carry out investigations if required about their relatives by legal authority. The PLA also intensified scrutiny towards misuse and mishandling of fast rising defense budget. China’s top military officials now face strict auditing. The Central Party School, the training centre for Chinese communist officials has already introduced anti-corruption textbooks into its curriculum since March 2007. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) opened an anti-corruption hotline in June 2009 and within one week it received more than 11,000 calls to report job related crimes and alleged corruption among government officials.

As a response to popular demand, the Information Office of the State Council issued its first White Paper on corruption titled “China’s Efforts to Combat Corruption and Build a Clean Government” on December 29, 2010. According to this white paper, prosecutors investigated more than 240,000 cases of embezzlement, bribery and dereliction of duty. Over 69,200 cases of commercial bribery involving a total 16.59 billion yuan were investigated. In 2009, about 7,036 officials were held responsible for serious mistakes in decision making, breach of duty and inefficiency. The white paper also claims that over 80 percent Chinese think that corruption have reduced over the years.

Though people in China are appreciative of the measures taken by the government, latest data disclose somewhat different corruption scenario in China. In 2010, for different corruption charges disciplinary actions and administrative actions have been taken against nearly 120,000 and 40,000 cadres respectively. Of these corrupt officials 5098 belonged to above county level administration and among legal cadres 804 worked above county level. The number of government officials involved in embezzling more than one million yuan has increased by 19 percent from the previous year. The rampant official corruption data has impelled a new debate and doubts have started arising about efficacy of government’s anti-corruption policies as well as honesty of the party cadres. The recently concluded session of the CCDI criticized this kind of thinking and claimed that cadres involved in various corruption charges constitute only 1.5 percent of total members of the CPC. There is no doubt that the number of corrupt officials is small in a party of over 70 million cadres, but top leadership of the party are definitely uncomfortable with this situation.

So far at least 25 high ranking party bosses of the central and provincial level party committee were sentenced to death but these were mostly of exemplary nature. There have also been many cases involving top party cadres and princelings, however, in such cases they received much lesser punishment for committing more heinous crimes. The Carnegie Endowment scholar Ming Xinpei points out that the chances of a corrupt official going to jail is about 3 percent and this makes “corruption a high-return, low risk activity”.

The CCDI meeting emphasized people-oriented governance, adherence to the principles of serving people, “people first” principles in decision making process, rule of law, safeguarding people’s rights to protect their economic, political, social, and other interests and strengthening primary work style of cadres and education of grassroots cadres.

Social and Legal Affairs

China is one of the countries in the world which have been using death penalty to silence opponents or to promote political agendas of the ruling regime. Though exact death statistics is not clear, according to one estimation China executes about 8000 people each year. In recent years Chinese legal experts have become concerned about excessive use of capital punishment across the country. In January 2007, China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) regained right to review all death penalty cases. In order to limit the application of capital punishment and make local courts careful in examining evidence more thoroughly, the SPC has recently decided to overturn death sentences in cases where evidence is collected by illegal means. The top legal authority of the country has taken cognizance of the case of Zhao Zuohai who was behind bars for 11 years until the man he allegedly murdered turned up alive on last April. It is now evident that he was tortured by police and forced to confess his so-called crime.

Chinese lawyers have also begun to take individual cases to fight against illegal proceedings and irrational practices in judicial system. On behalf of Niu Yuqiang who had been given death penalty for hooliganism in 1984 which was later commuted to jail terms, a lawyer in Beijing has submitted a request to the Standing Committee of the NPC to grant a special amnesty for him. In 1990 his jail term was finally reduced to 18 year. But he was not released from jail in 2008 and his jail term was extended to 2020 on the grounds that he broke the time limit of medical parole in 1990 when he got ill. ‘Hooliganism’ as a criminal act which sent Niu to jail was abolished from the new Criminal Law of the country as early as 1997, making him a criminal for a crime that no longer existed.

Economic Highlights

1. The Chinese leadership has been advocating for last few years a change to the rapid development model and break away from the GDP myth. Zhang Ping, chairman of National Development and Reform Commission again raised the issue recently. He pointed out that problem of restraining GDP growth is that many local and provincial governments are reluctant to view this issue objectively. In 12th FYP, Beijjing and a few other cities and provincial governments targeted 8 to 9 percent economic growth, but rest of the provinces set their target above 10 percent. Some local officials believe that the developed eastern provinces should implement green economy and poorer provinces in the western regions should be allowed to develop fast. The central leadership is also worried because an unrestricted economic growth means rising energy consumption.
2. According to the data released by the Chinese General Administration of Customs, in 2010 China imported 239 million tons of oil. Some think that in 2010 China has actually surpassed the US in oil consumption. It is viewed by some economists that it will be difficult for China to reduce dependency on foreign oil even if it can fulfill its target of cutting carbon emission by 40 to 50 percent.

Foreign Policy/Foreign Relations

The US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ four days visit to China just one week before the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington indicates that the military to military exchanges of the two countries is essential part of their diplomacy. The high level visits of military personnel have been unilaterally postponed by China in January 2010 when the US decided to sell nearly $6.4 billion arms to Taiwan. During his stay Gates met Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, Vice President and Vice Chairman Central Military Commission Xi Jinping and President Hu Jintao.

Gates made candid remarks about China’s growing military capability and America’s strategic interests in the region. Liang made it clear that US arms sale to Taiwan jeopardized China’s core interest in the Strait. Chinese side did not endorse Gates’ proposal for a strategic dialogue focusing on nuclear, missile defence, space and cyber-weaponry. Chinese defence analysts interpreted Gates’ proposal as a two-pronged strategy for extending areas of military exchanges and monitoring China’s defensive advancements. For the time being the two sides agreed to continue only the visits of high-level officials and interactions between military educational institutes. It was decided that Chief of General Staff of the PLA Chen Bingde would visit America in the first half of 2011.

During Gates stay in China, Chinese military conducted its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet J-20 which marks dramatic progress of military modernization. China denied that test of stealth fighter was timed to coincide with Gates’ visit, but the test gave the host a chance not only to prove their increasing capability to develop state of the art weapon systems but also to emphasis that they are quite transparent about its defence capabilities and weapon development.

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