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Russia: Corruption in China. Shenyang

From China, Paul Simon says: "Cameron hits on several good points. Singapore has the best-paid civil servants on earth. Their eminence grise, Lee Kwan-yu has been quoted saying, "If you feed them peanuts, they will act like monkeys"

Zhu Rongji (China's Premier) gave the keynote speech at the opening of the NPC this week; he emphasized the threat to social stability caused by corruption. Sadly, he just proposed more top-down measures. While they will not eliminate corruption, at least a free Fourth Estate, electoral recall, and a multi-party system help expose corruption and remove the occasional rascal. China lacks all three. Top down directives don't work if the little guy is ill-paid and he perceives those above him as corrupt.

You can't keep corruption secret, at least not if you are going to have any fun with your loot. Take a vacation to Switzerland and you have to buy airline tickets. Get that new Lincoln Town Car and everyone will see you toolin' 'round the city in it. Order abalone and shark fin soup for you and your pals and run a restaurant tab of several hundred bucks? Everyone who works at the restaurant knows you just blew two months' official salary.

And in China, everyone gossips: it's called xiaodaoxiaoxi (news on the little street). That's how John Pomfret undoubtedly got his scoop. I was in Shenyang when that scandal occurred, which was why I forwarded the article. I remember that within two days of the Executive Vice Mayor being arrested for his Macau gaming spree, every taxi driver and bootblack in the city was gossiping about it, though it wasn't publicized for months.

There are other factors, many others, that lead to corruption, authoritarian systems and poor civil wages set aside. Culture, religion, and history all play roles. The social psychologist James Tedeschi came up with Tedeschi's rule about a quarter century ago, "Sin is directly proportional to opportunity." Perhaps that's simple--ethics play in on one side and the odds of getting away with it (as perceived) also factor in. But corruption has a LONG history in China, as does authoritarian rule".

Ronald Hilton - 3/9/02