China’s fight against its history of corruption

A History with Corruption 

In Asia, it is common to use personal connections to get ahead, such as skipping lines or get better access to public facilities. How much you can speed up these processes depends on your personal connections and the amount you are willing to pay. According to the Global Corruption Barometer 2020, China has the third highest rates of people using personal connections for these purposes in Asia, at 32 per cent. Additionally, 28 per cent of Chinese public service users expressed having paid bribes in 2019. Strikingly, 62 per cent of people believed government corruption is a big problem in China.

Considering the abovementioned numbers, the GCB Asia 2020 also shows that in China, 54 per cent show a ‘fair amount of trust’ and confidence in the government; with 41 per cent showing a ‘great deal of trust’. On the opposite end, only 1 per cent claimed having ‘no trust at all’ in government officers. These might sound like conflicting numbers at first sight. However, the research shows that 64 per cent of Chinese people believe that corruption in the country decreased a lot or somewhat since the previous year. And this most likely has to do with the country’s anti-corruption campaign undergoing since 2018.

Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign

 In 2018, president Xi Jinping launched an anti-corruption campaign under the slogan ‘sweep away black and eliminate evil’ (Saohei chu’e, in Mandarin). Over 40 thousand corrupt companies were busted, and more than 50 thousand government officials were punished. As a result, China’s ranking in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index improved from the previous edition. Even though the campaign is a seeming success, critics claimed the imprisonments could have served another purpose – to lock away those who the party believes to have gained too much wealth or influence. Families of the convicted say the campaign has imprisoned innocent people or have exaggerated the crimes being committed to fulfill prosecution quotas.

Even though the perception of corruption in China has decreased, other statistics show that this is still a problem in the country. The GCB Asia 2020 further showed that 95 per cent of those who were asked to pay a bribe did not report the incident to an authority. This demonstrates that there is still plenty of work to be done to increase transparency in China.

Anti-bribery legislation

The current state of legislation against bribery offenses in China are as follows.

Bribery of public officials (or official bribery) is a crime under Articles 385, 388-1, 387, 389, 390-1, 391, 393 and 392 of the PRC Criminal Law. A person is guilty of official bribery if he or she gave articles of property to ‘state functionaries’ to seek improper advantage. In China, state functionary is a wide term, including state-owned enterprise employees and non-state-owned enterprises.

Active bribery cases are only prosecuted if the amount at stake exceeds 30 thousand RMB (approximately 32 thousand DKK). If the respective amount is between 30 thousand and 10 thousand RMB, the person offering the bribe may still be prosecuted if:

  • The money was given to seek a work promotion.
  • The money was given by unlawful gains.
  • The bribe was given to officials in charge of food, drug, production safety or environmental protection.
  • The bribe was given to judicial officials.
  • The bribes were given to more than three people.
  • Or the bribe caused an economic loss not exceeding 1 million RMB.

The penalties for official bribery range from short term imprisonment to life imprisonment. Courts can also impose fines on individuals, companies, or confiscate property. For those who commit commercial bribery, the punishment ranges from short-term detention to a 10-year prison sentence; additional to fines or property confiscation.

But how about facilitation payments?

Under Chinese laws, facilitation payments or hospitality have no exception – unlike the United States’ FCPA of 1977. Thus, to conclude if facilitation payments constitute an offence, the money or advantage given needs to be ‘determined’ under the PRC Criminal Law or if it constitutes commercial bribery under the Anti-Unfair Competition Law (AUCL).

Therefore, provided that the facilitation payment meets the criteria of a bribe under the PRC or AUCL, no matter how small the amount, it will be subject to a penalty.

In the future, China will proceed, and most likely harden its anti-corruption campaign. In fact, in January this year, president Xi Jinping told the Communist Party’s top disciplinary official to have a ‘zero tolerance’ towards corruption and to make sure cadres follow policy decisions. The future will tell if transparency in China improves or not as a result of this.

Do you believe Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign will end corruption in China? Or do you believe the campaign is a political tool against opposition? Let us know in the comments.

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