We in the West generally are cynical about corruption. We think it’s a natural product of Capitalism, of profit motive, and part of human nature. Yet the scale revealed of hundreds of millions of dollars involved does shock us. We can’t just excuse them as cavalier as Deng’s saying somebody has get to rich first. When Xi said that fight against corruption is life and death fight for the soul of communist party, he’s not exaggerating. For if the generals of PLA are selling promotions for profit, then the ripple effect can’t be understated. Not only it will affect the morale of honest officers, but those who paid the bribes will generally be corrupt also. When money controls the gun and not the party, then the party will really be in danger.
When I visited China 2 years ago, there were a general dissatisfaction about corruption. People maybe richer, yet they felt nostalgic about the time of Mao, they don’t have to worry about the mortgage for housing when rents were a few yuans per month. Despite what the West said about Cultural Revolution and Mao, most people do have warm feelings for Mao and yearn for honest officials. The recent moves on demoting naked officials, fight against waste, and transparency on budgets are quite popular. Two recent news stories caught my attention and illustrate the drain of money out of China due to corruption. One is the sale notice of the Villa in France belonging to the wife of Bo Xilai, China is trying to recover the money under the tangled web of ownership of the villa. The other is the downfall of Ling Jihua, former director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee. He is the father of rumored Ferrari crash victim a few years back in Beijing that derailed his career. I understand there was an attempted cover up of the crash, the police changed the name of the victim, the 2 Tibetan girls injured in the crash, 1 died later, their families were paid off, and the father didn’t even attend his son’s funeral. Yet to no avail he’s now under investigation for serious disciplinary violations.
For those who feel that is irrelevant to their lives I would disagree. The fight against corruption now seriously impacted Macau, the jewel of casinos in Asia, their revenues are down. One of the major player there is Las Vegas Sand, majority owner being family of Sheldon Adelson, a major contributors in Republican politics in U.S.. The hit taking by Las Vegas Sand, on the year when stock markets were way up is about 1/3. I think Mr. Adelson has $10 billion fewer to affect U.S. politics where money is speech.