China Power

China’s Corruption Watchdog Cracks Down — On the US

Plus, more oil rigs in the South China Sea and suggestions for US-China relations. Friday China links.

China’s Corruption Watchdog Cracks Down — On the US
Credit: Facebook/ House of Cards

This week’s China links:

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Chinese Communist’s Party body responsible for the ongoing anti-corruption crackdown, has picked a puzzling new target: the United States. The CCDI posted an article on its website Monday, using the popular U.S. television show “House of Cards” to criticize “Western developed countries” for their corruption. The Wall Street Journal translated excerpts into English in its analysis of the article. “In fact, if you dive deep into these issues, you will discover that the corruption problems in developed Western nations such as the U.S. are widespread,” the article argued.

To be fair, the CCDI article didn’t take “House of Cards” as proof of Western corruption; rather, it used the show as a springboard for exploring the history of dirty politics in the West. The article touched on rampant corruption in 18th century England and 19th century America and the recent convictions of former French President Jacques Chirac and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The actual point of the article came in the final paragraph, when the author finally turned his attention to China’s anti-corruption activities. To truly understand the level of corruption in China’s current stage of development, people must be clear-sighted and have confidence, the author wrote.

The article, in essence, uses Western corruption to argue that China’s corruption problem is not as much of an aberration as people think. In that sense, it may remind people of 2012 op-ed in Global Times (translated here by China Media Project) that argued “there is no way in any country to ‘root out’ corruption. Most critical is containing it to a level acceptable to the public.” The article also urged the public to “understand … the objective fact and reality that China has no way of entirely suppressing corruption without sending the whole country into pain and confusion.” The article created a firestorm on Chinese social media, where people believed Global Times was providing excuses for China’s high-level of corruption.

Speaking of corruption, Tea Leaf Nation explores how female cadres are increasingly joining the ranks of China’s corrupt. Despite Mao’s famous dictum that “women hold up half the sky,” few Chinese women rise to top political posts. Thus, as the article explains, when most people think of Chinese women and corruption, they envision the women as mistresses of powerful male officials — not as cadres themselves who are trying to rise in the Party ranks alongside their male counterparts.

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Moving on to the South China Sea, as Ankit noted yesterday, China has positioned a second oil rig in the region, this one close to China’s Hainan islang. Today, Reuters reports that China has sent a total of four additional oil rigs into the South China Sea, though none of the rigs are expected to be located within disputed waters. “Please don’t worry, there won’t be any problem,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters when asked about the rigs.

Finally, over at Foreign Affairs, James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon tackle the tough topic of “how to prevent U.S.-Chinese relations from blowing up.” Steinberg served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of state from 2009 to 2011, where he was widely known to be one of the top advisors on China policy. O’Hanlon is a long-time foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution, where he has written about everything from U.S. options in Afghanistan to the possibility of a U.S.-China war over Taiwan. Steinberg and O’Hanlon argue that “rational short-term thinking” in both Beijing and Washington is likely to make conflict “a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

To avoid this, Steinberg and O’Hanlon urge a path of “restraint, reciprocity, transparency, and resilience.” They particularly single out non-traditional (but increasingly militarized) fields like space and cyberspace as areas where the U.S. China should attempt to come to mutual agreement on the boundaries of acceptable action. Steinberg and O’Hanlon also argue that more credible “redlines” are needed to reduce the potential for misunderstandings about where the U.S. and China’s “core interests” truly lie.