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If everyone is out for profit, then no one profits   2012-07-19 20:54:00

[By Zhou Tao/Shanghai Daily]

  As the state continues to beef up its anti-graft efforts, we have been hearing about quite a few corruption scandals.

  Some involve highly placed officials. Early this month, Liu Zhuozhi, former vice chairman of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, was sentenced to life imprisonment for taking more than 8.17 million yuan (US$130 million) in bribes. Liu also sold official posts to a dozen eager buyers. For instance, he sold the positions of deputy chief, and then chief,of an urban planning bureau for 650,000 yuan.

  On June 25, it was reported that Huang Sheng, a deputy governor of Shandong Province, has been expelled from the Party, stripped of all government posts, and is being investigated for serious disciplinary and legal violations. There were lurid online allegations that Huang took bribes of 56 billion yuan (about US$9 billion), kept 46 mistresses and owned 46 properties. Although the sum has not been verified, a report published on the website of the People's Daily yesterday confirmed that Huang had been found guilty of selling official posts and keeping mistresses, among other things.

  Unlikely target

  There were also cases involving people in sectors that we do not usually associate with corruption, for instance, weather forecasting

  Last week, Shi Yongyi, general manager of a group under the China Meteorological Bureau, stood trial for embezzling more than a million yuan for personal use. Her group submitted a letter appealing for leniency, citing the suspect's contribution to China's meteorological science and saying that since the group was launched more than 10 years ago, she worked more than 10 hours a day, even on weekends.

  But as a manager of a state-owned enterprise worth 100 million yuan in assets, Shi was paid only 140,000 yuan annually, a pittance compared with the millions or tens of millions some SOE bank or insurance company chiefs are wont to receive. True, Shi's annual salary is much higher than the national average, but she has good reason to feel unjustly treated. To a considerable extent, this perception of unfair treatment emboldens some officials to grab whatever they can whenever the occasion arises.

  On June 20, Hu Jianyong, former Party secretary of Yudu, Jiangxi Province, was sentenced to life imprisonment for taking more than 17 million yuan in bribes. His graft came to light because, despairing of getting further promotion, he directed his subordinates to slander one of his superiors, thus opening the way to advancement. The bribes he received are just a fraction of the pay some SOE chiefs receive in a year.

  On April 26, Jiao Baohua, municipal Party secretary of Yining City, Xijiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve (in effect, life imprisonment) for abuse of power, receiving bribes exceeding 34.65 million yuan. Last year the border city's employees earned an average of 32,386 yuan annually.

  Of course publicizing these cases serves as a warning to other officials, but could overexposure to these astronomical figures actually do a disservice by stretching some officials' imagination?

  The real trouble is that ever since making money has been elevated from a necessary evil (in the old days) to something glorious, the whole country has been in the grip of a fever for wealth. This restlessness has fueled decades of growth, and in spite of the fact that good fortune increasingly rewards the reckless and the privileged, innovation can sometimes play a role too.

  Last August, the Shanghai Municipal Meteorological Station began to publish a routine nose-health index, in cooperation with a nose-cleaning liquid maker. The move was suspended after a public outcry, but it certainly takes originality for weather forecasters to turn a profit.

  By comparison, it is much easier for teachers, doctors, lawyers and judges to monetize the expertise or power invested in them.

  Anti-corruption manual

  The Higher People's Court of Zhejiang recently published an anti-corruption manual that advises judges how to properly handle 24 situations that might compromise the professional integrity of a judge.

  These include how to turn down gifts, cash or shopping cards sent by clients. Some applaud this manual as original, though I believe that playing up the technical aspects of this anti-graft drive is misleading. It's easy for a judge to say 'no' if he or she perceives bribery to be a crime punishable by imprisonment.

  On the other hand, corruption has become a problem of such gravity that policymakers must look beyond the cult of economic metrics, for those metrics have little to do with the people.

  Revisit the account about Mencius:

  Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang. The King said, "My good man, since you haven't thought one thousand li too far to travel to see me, may I presume that you have something that can profit my kingdom?"

  Mencius said: "Why must you speak of profit? What I have for you is Humaneness and Righteousness, and that's all. If you always ask, 'How can I profit for my kingdom?' your top officers will ask, 'How can we profit for our clans?' The elites and the common people will ask, 'How can we profit for ourselves?' Superiors and inferiors will struggle against each other for profit, and the country will be in chaos."


source : Shanghai Daily     editor:: Diana
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