Will Xi Jinping's ban on lavish banquet bring an end to China's rampant corruption?
China's new top leader Xi Jinping launched a anti-lavish-banquet campaign aiming to control rampant corruption among Chinese officials, resulting in sharp drop of business in luxury hotels and high rate restaurants.
“The catering business is sliding into the depths of recession”, said Liu Bing, a head chef at a high rating restaurant in Yangzhou. ‘Small restaurants are getting busy now because government officials don’t dare to dine out at a big name restaurant. They worry their wasteful behaviour might catch public attention’, continued Liu.
Before Xi Jingping took over power, government officials were regular customers at local big name restaurants and high rating hotels and they enjoyed luxurious and lavish life styles by using taxpayer’s money. Even low ranking local council officials, such as party chiefs of small villages, had assistants to carry their bags and chauffeurs for official cars which were most imported and famous brand. For dinner, 10 officials would spend at least $350.
Official statistics show that more than 4 million official cars have been registered in China, which cost taxpayer 400 billion RMB (roughly 70 billion USD) a year, according to Chinanews.com.
But it seems the good days of Chinese officials would end with Xi Jinping becoming new top leader of China. After he moved into office early this year, the new leadership with Xi Jinping at the core issued a directive ordering officials to be frugal by taking less lavish banquet as an anti-corruption campaign to fight corruption in the party and government system. The president has also banned a number of other wasteful government practices in addition to the anti-lavish-banquet campaign. For instance, the central government has restricted government officials in misusing publicly funded cars for private purposes.
The new leader once said at a party conference that the government officials’ corruption might lead to ‘demise of the Communist Party in China’. He has realized that there is an urgent need to take concrete actions to crackdown on corruption amongst officials in order to maintain legacy and keep the party on power.
Government officials are now worrying about a new wave of anti-corruption campaign and they might lose their jobs if they do not pretend to become ‘humble and low key’. They prefer dinning out at a family restaurant because the location will not easily be found by the public, journalists and net citizens.
With the popularity of social network and Internet, the Chinese net citizens have been curious about the many daily activities of local and central government officials. Many net citizens have devoted time to exposing a series of stories about corrupt government officials in 2012. Their corrupt behaviour and wasteful expenditure of public money continues to spark fiery Internet debate and a raft of government officials and high post of civil servants have been dismissed for their alleged wrongdoing and serious violations of party discipline. Ordinary people are angered by the privileged life-style of government figures.
“It is good to save taxpayers’ money; the new anti-corruption drive does work well. At least, government officials are scared about their wasteful behaviour to be exposed by the public and they don’t do it publicly,” said Min Aidong, a book-keeper in a family-run factory in Yangzhou.
‘In sharp contrast to the past, fewer government officials dine out at our restaurant, many still come but they use fake company’s name to avoid being found out by the public .’ pointed out Liu Bing.
It is a serious test for Xi Jingping’s leadership and determination to fight corruption. However the success of campaign lies at least in the continuity and enforement of the campaign.
It was reported in April that some government officials were finding ways around President Xi Jinping’s graft-busting instructions to be frugal by taking banquets and other lavish displays underground, including hiding liquor in water bottles.
Will Xi Jinping's anti-lavish-banquet campaign lead to an end of the rampant corruption in China? Let’s wait and see.