A Changing Chinese Government
Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government is struggling to balance transparency through eliminating corruption among its ranks, and censoring the public. In the two years since Jinping has taken on the role of president, he has won over 92% of China, who gave him great ratings in part because of his campaign to eradicate widespread government corruption. Jinping’s well-known plan to snare both low-ranking bureaucrats and “tigers”, high-ranking officials, is part of his effort to improve transparency and encourage an overall economic reform towards frugality rather than excessive luxury. Jinping also seeks to battle corruption in court by developing a more independent judiciary system in the future that would be less influenced by government players.
So far, Jinping’s campaign is on a successful track. But despite publicized arrests of higher-ups who have been proven to have taken bribes or committed other acts against the Party rules (including adultery), there have been public requests to also have a law that mandates disclosing officials’ financial assets. Such a law would drastically improve transparency but disclosing finances is clearly still taboo, as activists suggesting this law were recently sentenced to prison. As well, the anti-corruption campaign may be strongly supported by the public, but Jinping’s adamant stance on catching each and every guilty official still needs to gain enough power to prevent corruption. This is especially clear as higher-up Zhou Yongkang was recently put under investigation after Chinese social media had anticipated an investigation into his corruption for over a year already.
Though, on one front, Jinping’s efforts to seek reform appear to have the potential to rid China of many corruption issues and bring in a more sustainable economy, he has also introduced harsher measures in other aspects. Since he has taken power, new media and journalism laws were put in place that are morerestricting, and the government has cracked down on social media that included detaining popular netizens. Free speech has taken a step back with harsher censorship and people have noticed – Sina Weibo’s user activity took a hit after the 2013 crackdown. Even the anti-corruption campaign has received criticism for its methods and for not reforming the system.
The current anti-corruption campaign may rid China of many corrupt officials, especially with the public’s encouragement. Perhaps a government reform will be possible in the future. But with rampant censorship, especially online, and brazen detainment of influential netizens that are not always on the government’s side, China will continue to be held back by restrictive policies.