Comments on William H. Overholt "The politics of China’s anti-corruption campaign", 16/09/2015
This is a very interesting discussion about the politics of China’s anti-corruption campaign, though it may have misunderstood some of China’s politics.
China has undergone various social, economic and political reforms (or experiences) since the Communists came to power in late 1949.
While there was little corruption during the pre-cultural revolution period, the cultural revolution period under Mao, political campaigns and class struggles were dominant and the economic system was command and highly planned economy (as far as the industrial economy was concerned). People’s actual living standards may have improved but fairly slowly. Since the reforms and opening policies began, it has been the economy that became the major focus and outstanding results have been achieved. The economic system has also gradually moved to a market economy. People may say the fundamental political system has not changed much apart from the tenures of top leaders are limited to two terms now, corruptions became widespread and engulfed the whole country. People’s living standards at the same time have dramatically improved, even though income inequality has also widened and the environment has worsened.
Many people in China probably wish to have both a system as clean as that period of pre-reforms under Mao and the improvement of living standard since the reforms started. That provides the background for Xi’s anti-corruption campaign and his advocate of the Chinese dream.
Unfortunately, China’s economy has encountered significant headwinds. So while the anti-corruption has been popular among most ordinary Chinese, the slowing of the economic growth may prove to be an offsetting factor in people’s thinking.
Further, it is true that the anti-corruption campaign may have contributed partially, though a very minor part, to the slowing economy due to the reduction in consumption of public money by officials, bureaucrats and compony executives and there might be a period when people may not be sure what to do exactly in terms of implementing reforms, it should be clear enough when new reform measures and plans are required under Xi’s leadership. Due to the anti-corruption and the criteria for performance under the Chinese system, most bureaucrats should not have too many problems with implementing most reforms initiated by the leadership team, as long as the leadership team is united under Xi. However, the slowing economic growth, if not handled well enough, can become a significant check on the popularity of the anti-corruption campaign and may even diminish the support for the current leadership team, thanks to people’s desire to have the better parts of both the pre and the reform periods.