In this original article, Keith Lamb explains that, whilst China has scored enormous achievements in the battle against corruption, it still faces an uphill task in preventing new cases and rooting out existing ones.
Because the CPC is a Marxist party, Keith explains, with the historic mission to usher in socialism, it has to hold itself to higher standards than those political parties which operate within the framework of capitalism. However, when working towards socialism, utopian action will fail. Therefore, China took the pragmatic road by adopting a socialist market economy, which has advanced the forces of production and technology necessary for socialist development. However, this also creates a series of class and material contradictions that need to be navigated.
Achieving China’s goal of becoming a prosperous and modern socialist country by 2049, the author notes, not only requires a constant battle against corruption, but also provides part of the remedy for corruption.
Recently at the second plenary session of the 20th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) it was noted that the corruption situation, in China remains grave and complex. The Communist Party of China (CPC) faces an uphill task in preventing new cases of corruption and rooting out existing ones.
In recent years, there have been enormous achievements in the battle against corruption at all levels of officialdom, which is encapsulated in the slogan “striking tigers and swatting flies.” In 2018, Lai Xiaomin the former state asset manager was executed for taking $277 million in bribes, and Sun Zhengcai, the former Chongqing Party Chief, was given life imprisonment for taking $27 million in bribes.
As of June 2022, a total of 4,516,000 corruption cases were handled by disciplinary authorities, and 4,439,000 people were punished for violating discipline. Just over a month after the closing of the 20th CPC National Congress, more than 10 officials who were suspected of severe violations of discipline and laws had turned themselves in.
Considering such successes, one may ask why the corruption situation still remains grave and complex. First, the massive anti-corruption campaign launched after the 18th National Congress was unprecedented in size, due to corruption becoming so deep-rooted. Consequently, considering the magnitude of the problem, no matter the achievements already accumulated, there is still much to do.
Corruption remains the greatest threat to the CPC as it leads to resentment by citizens, who are represented by the Party and who the Party derives support from. It leads to inefficient and undemocratic governance as officials work for their own interests, which in turn goes against the goals of the CPC to guide China towards socialism characterized by increased equality.
Because the CPC is a Marxist party, with the aforementioned historic mission to usher in socialism, it has to hold itself to higher standards than most foreign political parties which operate within the framework of capitalism. For example, lobbying in the U.S., which places the power of capital above that of U.S. governing organs, is legal because it works within accepting the status quo, where what is good for capital is deemed as good for all.
In China this relationship is inverted. What is good for capital may not always be good for all. Often the narrow interests of capital are antithetical to the needs of society and even capital itself from a long-term perspective.
Speaking of the complex situation of corruption in China, conditioned by capital, one may wish to do away with this social force! However, when working towards socialism, utopian action will fail. One must work within the boundaries of the existing contradictions of material reality and social forces to achieve “utopian” destinations.
With this in mind, China took the pragmatic road by adopting a Socialist Market Economy, which has advanced the forces of production and technology necessary for socialist destinations. However, it also brings a corresponding series of material and class contradictions to be navigated through.
First, money is power, and market forces accumulate this power to those who, constrained by their world outlook, act undemocratically. The U.S. open political nature allows individual capitalists to wield this power freely. But, in China, this potentiality of capital, to personally affect politics, is wielded through bribery which cannot be tolerated.
The problem is there must be a close connection between governing systems and economic forces, in which capital plays a major role. How does one keep these forces together yet separated?
The CPC advocates for zero tolerance and harsh discipline which leads to officials not daring to be corrupt. In addition, the increased systematization of processes and oversight leads to officials not being able to be corrupt. For the purpose of ensuring the implementation of the plans made at the 20th CPC National Congress the CCDI will strengthen its political oversight
A second contradiction of unleashing market forces is that they can also corrupt ideologically and spiritually. Consumption “ideally” requires constant refreshment and reinforcement of “insatiable desires.” The greater these desires the more capital is needed to fulfil them which can strengthen the power of capital to corrupt.
Consequently, strict ideological discipline within the party is needed. Here, officials must be cognisant of not being swayed by unbridled hedonism and money worship, which the CPC is battling against, but be conscious of the Party’s mission to bring greater equality, prosperity, and harmony to all.
Achieving China’s structural goal of becoming a prosperous socialist country by 2049, not only requires a constant battle against corruption and ideological reinforcement to navigate the various contradictions, but it also provides part of the remedy for corruption.
Structural forces guiding corruption, on one extreme, is unfettered greed, which we see with the imprisonment and execution of the “tigers”. On the other extreme, there is the fear of scarcity, both now and in the future, which conditions petty corruption by the “flies”. These fears may be influenced by the market apportioning basics like housing, healthcare, and education unequally.
With China defeating absolute poverty, these structural inequalities are now in focus. Future successes in achieving greater equality will contribute to officials having no desire to become corrupt and further strengthen widespread support for China’s clean governing system which acts for the democratic interests of all.