किताब में पत्रकार इवान ओसनोस क्या टीपते हैं..
Double Happiness cigarettes eventually gave way to Hermès bags, sports cars, and tuition for children studying abroad. The larger the deal, the higher the cadre needed to approve it, and the bribes moved straight up the ranks. Officials and businessmen looked out for one another by organizing themselves into “protective umbrellas,” a step in what Chinese scholars called the “Mafiazation” of the state.
If the effects were abstract at first, they soon became vivid. In case after case, the disasters that enraged the Chinese public were traced back to graft, fraud, embezzlement, and patronage: The schools that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake had been compromised by kickbacks; the train that crashed in Wenzhou was managed by one of the country’s most corrupt agencies. In the case of the tainted infant formula that killed children in 2008, dairy farmers and dealers first bribed state inspectors to ignore the presence of chemicals. Then, when children fell ill, the dairy company bribed news organizations to suppress the story.
With creativity, anything could become a bribe. Businessmen arranged poker games in which the officials were guaranteed to win. Alcohol was such a reliable choice that the state media conceded that sales of the country’s most famous liquor, Kweichow Moutai, was “an index for China’s corruption.” It was selling so well in 2011 that the company paid the largest dividend in the history of China’s stock markets. Demand was heavy enough that the company had to ration it to stores.
I once dropped by the home of Mao Yushi, a liberal economist who happened to live near the headquarters of China’s powerful planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission. He pointed out that the commission was surrounded by gift shops selling alcohol and porcelain. Citizens seeking help knew to stock up before going in for their meetings. “All these people from out of town enter the building carrying big bags and small bags, and they leave empty-handed,” the economist observed. “When the cadres get off work, they leave the building carrying all the big bags and small bags, but they can’t possibly consume everything, so they sell it back to the gift shops, who in turn sell them to yet more people on a mission to Beijing. That’s what our street has become.”
Public servants—officially earning twenty or thirty thousand dollars a year—became such frequent shoppers at Gucci and Louis Vuitton that high-end boutiques in Beijing ran out of stock whenever the National People’s Congress was in session. (Politicians learned to call ahead to reserve their favorite items.) In some cases, a businessman would accompany an official through the aisles, but if that was too conspicuous, he could leave a credit card on file, to be charged as needed. Most of the time, it was hard to know who was paying whom, but occasionally a court case provided a peek at how the money was changing hands. When police in Macau arrested Ao Man Long, the region’s secretary for transport and public works, he had a collection of what he called “friendship notebooks,” which documented a hundred million U.S. dollars in kickbacks.
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For outsiders, the scale of political corruption in China was often difficult to comprehend, in part because most were insulated from it. Visitors to China, compared to other developing countries, were not hit up for small bribes by customs officers or street cops; unless foreigners used Chinese schools or public hospitals, they didn’t feel the creep of bribery into virtually every corner of Chinese society. On paper, Chinese public education was free and guaranteed, but parents knew to pay “sponsorship fees” to gain entry to top schools; in Beijing, the fees reached sixteen thousand dollars—more than double the average annual salary. Nationwide, 46 percent of parents said in a survey that strong “social connections” or fees were the only way to get their children a good education. By 2011, according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, authorities were opening corruption cases at the rate of one a day for department-level officials, the equivalent of a city mayor.
Paying for power was so common that in 2012 the Modern Chinese Dictionary, the national authority on language, was compelled to add the word maiguan—“to buy a government promotion.” In some cases, the options read like a restaurant menu. In a small town in Inner Mongolia, the post of chief planner was sold for $103,000. The municipal party secretary was on the block for $101,000. It followed a certain logic: in weak democracies, people paid their way into office by buying votes; in a state where there were no votes to buy, you paid the people who doled out the jobs. Even the military was riddled with patronage; commanders received a string of payments from a pyramid of loyal officers beneath them. A one-star general could reportedly expect to receive ten million dollars in gifts and business deals; a four-star commander stood to earn at least fifty million.
Every country has corruption, but China’s was approaching a level of its own. For those at the top, the scale of temptation had reached a level unlike anything ever encountered in the West. It was not always easy to say which Bare-Handed Fortunes were legitimate and which were not, but political office was a reliable pathway to wealth on a scale of its own. By 2012 the richest seventy members of China’s national legislature had a net worth of almost ninety billion dollars—more than ten times the combined net worth of the entire U.S. Congress.
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