2002 October 05 Saturday
Will Corruption Destabilize China?

Writing in the September/October 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs Minxin Pei sees China developing a pattern of corruption similar to that of Suharto's Indonesia:

In retrospect, the 1990s ought to be viewed as a decade of missed opportunities. The CCP leadership could have taken advantage of a booming economy to renew itself through a program of gradual political reform built on the rudimentary steps of the 1980s. But it did not, and now the cumulative costs of a decade of foot-dragging are becoming more visible. In many crucial respects, China's hybrid neo-authoritarian order eerily exhibits the pathologies of both the political stagnation of Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union and the crony capitalism of Suharto's Indonesia.

The anti-corruption drives of the mid 1990s were basically not sincere attempts to reduce corruption:

Even more worrying, the CCP appears unable to enforce internal discipline despite the mortal threat posed by corruption, which has surpassed unemployment as the most serious cause of social instability. Recent official actions, especially the prosecution and execution of several senior officials, create the impression that the CCP leadership is committed to combating corruption. But a comprehensive look at the data tells a different story. Most corrupt officials caught in the government's dragnet seem to have gotten off with no more than a slap on the wrist. For example, of the 670,000 party members disciplined for wrongdoing from 1992 to 1997, only 37,500, or six percent, were punished by criminal prosecution. Indeed, self-policing may be impossible for a ruling party accountable to no one. According to a top CCP official, the party has in recent years expelled only about one percent of its members.

I have long been of the opinion that the biggest long term limit to China's economic growth is corruption. To sustain economic growth to a point where China could begin to catch up in per capita GDP terms with the West will require a much stronger division between the public and private sectors and an impartial and fairly independent system of laws and courts for property rights adjudication. It seems doubtful that China can develop such a system as long as its political system is run by a single party monopoly.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 October 05 02:05 PM 


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