By Dereck Lammers
In 1990, China was not seen as a major economic threat just shy of becoming one of the top ten economies in the world. Ten years later, China jumped in the rankings to become the sixth biggest economy. Fast forward to 2013 and China is now the biggest threat to the number one economy in the world, the United States of America. China’s rapid growth is mainly due to their enormous levels of manufacturing exports. Although money has been pouring into the national economy, and the quality of life has certainly improved for a large part of their giant population, corruption is the main issue to tackle moving forward.
China is on the brink of a possible clash of economic power with the US very soon, but the key for this to actually happen requires eradicating corruption by all means. With the new government installed, China’s new president Xi Jinping expects to finally put an end to the corruption that has plagued this country ever since their origins under Mao Zedong.
Governing a country with 1.3 billion people can be a challenging task for any government. Hu Jintao, China’s previous president, took their economy to new levels during his control of the government despite the many claims of scandals and corruptions made by the elite members of the government. Xi Jinping has created a system that will continue China’s economic growth with a strong emphasize on corruption. Although growth is not expected to continue in the double digits as they have enjoyed for the last two decades, China will have a new reputation at the international level if Xi Jinping is successful at accomplishing his plan. The country has witnessed many cases of political corruption in recent years, with the most famous one being the case of Bo Xilai, the governor of Chongqing and a name that was related with a future position as the president of the country. Many corrupted political figures have been apprehended and incarcerated for their illegal acts, but not many people know what happens and where they end up after they are sentenced. Where do the corrupted officials go in China?
Let’s take the most recent case involving Bo Xilai. Xilai was a former Communist Party chief in Chongqing, a municipality located in southwest China. He was once one of the most powerful men in the Communist party, with many claiming he would one day become the president of China. Bo’s nightmare began in November of 2011, when a British businessman, Neil Heywood, was found dead at a hotel in Chongqing. Later investigations accused Bo’s wife as the assassin, opening up a corruption case against Bo for his involvement. Bo Xilai was found guilty of conspiracy with the death of the Briton, charged and taken into custody (despite his many pleas denying any involvement with his wife’s act). Bo was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. But where does a high-level political officer serve his sentence? The answer is situated in the capital, Beijing.
Qincheng Prison is located north of Beijing. This jail is an usual spot for holding high-level corrupted political figures, rivals of the Communist parties, newspaper and authors criticizing the government, members of the 1989 Tiananmen Square revolution and even housing Mao’s wife. Opened in 1960 with the help of the Soviet Union, Qincheng can be described as a “special prison” where the high-ranking elites spend the rest of their lives. Contrary to ideas of a regular prison, Qincheng’s jailed members enjoy bigger jail cells, balconies (used mostly used for cloth-drying), and special amenities including daily TV from 7pm to 9pm, newspapers, full gyms (it is said that Tai Chi classes are offered daily for an hour) and flush toilets. More importantly, they are not forced to wear any uniforms, compared to ordinary prisoners. This jail and their cells can be compared to a hotel-style housing. He Dianhui, former director of the prison, recently told the media that the elites “…enjoy milk for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, they have two Chinese dishes, a bowl of soup and an apple”. The elite prisoners will eat their meals from chefs that work at the 5-star Beijing Hotel, most famously known as the hotel of preference during Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.
It is important to highlight that only the elites such as Bo Xilai get these preferences. Chinese media has been keeping quiet about these kinds of treatments for a while, but former prisoners have revealed their treatment after being released, making it known to the outside world. Bloggers all over the nation have spoken out about their feelings towards the special treatments of the corrupted elites in China. One microblogger asked “Is it really a prison, or a rehabilitation center?”
Although president Xi Jinping is determined to combat corruption at all costs, proven in his now famous remark of catching the “tigers” and “flies” of the government – the powerful leaders and lowly bureaucrats – not much can be done if at the end said leaders are sent to a hotel-style prison kind of a reward for their acts. When he was elected to preside over the most populous country in the world, Xi made clear that one of his main intentions while in power is to restore the transparency of the government. So far, many officials have been caught red-handed by Xi’s program, including high-ranking officers such as Bo Xilai. Despite the government’s initiative and their enforcement of arresting the corrupted, many people are left wondering about their punishment afterwards. Even though there is still prevalent corruption going on in China, I personally believe that Xi Jinping is doing a great job eradicating corruption and making sure that the Chinese government and their officials do their job in the most transparent way possible. If this is done and president Xi succeeds, it might just be a matter of time in which China will trump the United States of America as the biggest economy of the world.
Do you think the preferential style of treatment that the elites receive after being charged with corruption should be removed or that it does not play a role with the corruption going on in China? Would housing the corrupt political elites to regular jails be a smart move for the Chinese government to do?
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.