A recent poll conducted by Global Transparency found that Corruption is on the rise globally, particularly among many of the “Democracies”. China was not in this survey, but China was in a previous survey where outsiders were asked to rate China’s corruption by outside perception.
1 interesting point about the recent poll is that almost 1/2 of 107 nations surveyed perceived their own political parties as corrupt.
Another: Indian people not only perceived corruption in some abstract manner, but more than 50% of Indians surveyed reported paying bribes themselves http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/07/09/surprise-indians-still-find-india-very-corrupt/. Globally, the average is about 25% of people paid bribes.
It got me thinking. How many Chinese people actually paid bribes?
About the same time, a story appeared in China that a Chinese company leaked an account list of all of the bribes it paid to local officials. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/130710/bribery-china-ningxia. It was very cheap on average, $163 (although still kind of high in Chinese market).
The report got spread around on the net, and generated a lot of outrage.
But that report also indicated a flip side, that perhaps corruption in China is not widespread at the “street level”, so to speak.
What do I mean? Well, the stories from India is that the common people pay bribes, all the time. Want to connect electricity? Pay bribes. Want to go see a doctor? Pay bribes. Yes, at the “street level”, the common man in India pays bribes, for every day kind of stuff.
In comparison, in China, the kind of bribes going on are more the upper level, for businesses, companies, most of the time. Hence, I suspect, it is not commonly visible on the streets in China. (otherwise, Chinese netizens don’t need some special leaked report to reveal to them the amount of bribes going on).
In the past, there have been various blog posts among expats and foreign businesses, literally asking how much corruption and bribery actually goes on in China. Obviously, they don’t know, and they couldn’t get much of a straight answer from ordinary Chinese people that they meet. Everyone knows that bribery does happen in China, but it could not be tabulated easily. Why? Probably because it’s not that widespread on the “street level” in China. Otherwise, you can just go around and ask Chinese people if they paid bribes, and get a good answer, like they did in India.
I do not mean to claim that corruptions are better in some types, but I do think in view of the data from India, we should perhaps reexamine some of the assumptions about corruption in China.
Why do some Western media perceive and portray China as so corrupt, when they don’t really have much data on it (and going by their own flawed “perception)?
It’s sort of circular logic.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that “street level” corruption (visible corruption) is less in China than perceived. At border crossings between China, India, and Vietnam, Indian and Vietnamese customs officials customarily and nearly always demand bribes, openly, but Chinese customs officials generally do not.
Because in India and Vietnam, the “street level” corruption are so common and so accepted now, it has become customs. Whereas in China, the “street level” corruption is low, and it would stand out too much and cause public outcry on the spot.
The REAL visible evidence of corruption in China, are in the rich lifestyles of some Chinese officials. Mistresses, cars, houses, on civil servants’ salary? Such are the only visible evidence that lead to inevitable speculation of corruption.
But this is also traditional Chinese thinking, where so often in Chinese history, the rich and the extravagant are viewed with suspicion and viewed as corrupt somehow, no actual proof of wrong doing required. (Which may not be such a giant leap of logic, considering how many on Wall Street make their money).
Here, I think, the evidence of different kinds of corruption perhaps also suggest a question and a solution: Why do Chinese today not so easily willing to tolerate “street level” corruption, such as common every day kinds of bribes, which seems to be endemic in other developing nations??
Is it public awareness? Public consensus? Effective legal enforcement? Or other reasons?
If my assumptions are wrong above, please let me know.