China - 9-CorruptionChina - Corruption
Corruption remains endemic in China. The lack of an independent press, along with the fact that corruption investigators answer to and are managed by the CCP, all hamper the transparent and consistent application of anti-corruption efforts.
Chinese anti-corruption laws have strict penalties for bribes. Accepting a bribe is a criminal offense punishable up to life imprisonment or death in “especially serious” circumstances. Offering a bribe carries a maximum punishment of up to five years in prison, except in cases with “especially serious” circumstances, when punishment can extend up to life in prison.
In August 2015, the National People’s Congress amended several corruption-related parts of China’s Criminal Law. For instance, bribing civil servants’ relatives or other close relationships is a crime with monetary fines imposed on both the bribe-givers and the bribe-takers; bribe-givers, mainly in minor cases, who aid authorities can be given more lenient punishments; and instead of basing punishments solely on the specific amount of money involved in a bribe, authorities now have more discretion to impose punishments based on other factors.
In February 2011, an amendment was made to the Criminal Law, criminalizing the bribing of foreign officials or officials of international organizations. However, to date, there have not been any known cases where someone was successfully prosecuted for offering this type of bribe.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) and the Ministry of Public Security investigate criminal violations of laws related to anti-corruption, while the Ministry of Supervision (MOS) and the Discipline Inspection Commission (CCDI) enforce ethics guidelines and party discipline. China’s National Audit Office also inspects the accounts of SOEs and government entities. The National Bureau of Corruption Prevention (NBCP) is under the direct administration of the State Council and is responsible for improving government transparency and coordinating anti-corruption efforts among different government organizations. In January 2017, China announced plans for a National Supervision Commission, which will absorb the current functions carried out by MOS, anti-corruption units of the SPP, and the NBCP. China may also pass a corresponding National Supervision Law by as early as March 2018.
President Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Efforts
Since President Xi’s rise to power in 2012, China has undergone an intensive and large-scale anti-corruption campaign, with investigations reaching into all sectors of the government, military, and economy. President Xi labeled endemic corruption as an existential threat to the very survival of the CCP that must be addressed. Since then, each CCP annual plenum has touched on judicial, administrative, and Party discipline reforms needed to thoroughly root out corruption. Judicial reforms are viewed as necessary to institutionalize the fight against corruption and reduce the arbitrary power of Party investigators, but concrete measures have emerged slowly. To enhance regional anti-corruption cooperation, the 26th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Meeting adopted the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption in November 2014.
According to Wang Qishan, head of the CCDI and also a member of China’s ruling seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the CCP disciplined around 415,000 officials in 2016, almost a 25 percent increase compared to the previous year. However, over 75 percent of those disciplined received only “light discipline.” Of the officials disciplined, about 11,000 officials were expelled from the CCP and handed over to Chinese courts for prosecution. One group heavily disciplined has been the discipline inspectors, with the CCP punishing more than 7,900 inspectors since late 2012. This led to new regulations being implemented in 2016 by CCDI that increased overall supervision of investigators. Authorities also noted an increase in SOE officials being investigated, including 43 total investigations conducted in 2015, in comparison to 10 in 2014 and just two in 2013. Around 40 percent of SOE corruption investigations were of SOEs in the energy sector.
China’s overseas fugitive-hunting campaign, called “Operation Skynet,” has led to the capture of around 2,500 fugitives suspected of corruption. In 2016 alone, CCDI reported that 1,032 fugitives suspected of official crimes were apprehended. The Chinese government reports that in the first 11 months of 2016, China recovered 2.3 billion RMB (U.S. $334.47 million) in losses from graft, from over 70 countries and regions, through this campaign.
Anecdotal information suggests that China’s anti-corruption crackdown oftentimes is inconsistently and discretionarily applied, raising concerns among foreign companies in China. For example, to fight rampant commercial corruption in the medical/pharmaceutical sector, China’s health authority issued “black lists” of firms and agents involved in commercial bribery. Several of these blacklisted firms were foreign companies. Additionally, anecdotal information suggests many Chinese government officials responsible for approving foreign investment projects are slowing approvals to not arouse corruption suspicions.
While central government leadership has welcomed increased public participation in reporting suspected corruption at lower levels, direct criticism of central government leadership or policies remains off-limits and is seen as an existential threat to China’s political and social stability. Some citizens who have campaigned against officials’ misuse of public resources or called for officials to provide transparency and public accountability by disclosing public and personal assets have been subject to criminal prosecution.
United Nations Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
China ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2005 and participates in APEC and OECD anti-corruption initiatives. China has not signed the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery, although Chinese officials have expressed interest in participating in the OECD Working Group on Bribery meetings as an observer.
Resources to Report Corruption
The following government organization receives public reports of corruption:
Anti-Corruption Reporting Center of the CCP Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision, Telephone Number: +86 10 12388
China Economic Development and Investment Market Access