The corruption case involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) has prompted heated debate. The British weekly The Economist recently ran an article that discussed corruption involving the families of senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. The report said that last year alone, corrupt CCP officials are alleged to have remitted as much as US$12 billion overseas.
Apart from former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙來) and his wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), who are now under investigation for alleged corruption, research released by Bloomberg last month showed that the family of Xi Jinping (習近平) — the man expected to become the next Chinese leader — has assets worth US$376 million in mining, real estate and communications equipment, all of which are managed by Xi’s wife, former People’s Liberation Army folk singer Peng Li-yuan (彭麗媛), and his brother-in-law, Wu Long (吳龍).
Chinese-style “family corruption” controls monopoly businesses, essentially creating tight-knit interest groups. For example, the family of former Chinese premier Li Peng (李鵬) controls the electric power business; the children of another former Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基), control state-owned banks; the son of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) has a monopoly on military communication devices; and the family of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) owns China’s largest satellite communication company.
The Taizidang (太子黨) or “party of princelings” — the offspring of senior CCP officials — take vast sums of money from their business monopolies and become “legally corrupt families” that operate outside of national law. Bo just happened to be unlucky, since it is only during times of political struggle that such people are ever really investigated for corruption.
“Familial corruption” in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) began with the Koong (孔) and Soong (宋) families. After retreating to Taiwan, the KMT cultivated local factions, giving them monopolies over certain industries and leaving them to fight between each other to gain control over the nation. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) claims to be incorruptible, but he kept promoting Lin — a member of the Kaohsiung “Red” faction led by Lin’s father and Lin — out of turn. He probably never guessed that this young local faction leader would bring the bangzhuang (綁樁) culture — building local support using money and connections — into the Cabinet and use his official position to squeeze money out of others. However, in reality, all Lin really did was bring the “familial corruption” tactics of his own and his father’s generation from local politics to the central government.
If Chinese politics is characterized by “familial corruption,” then Japanese politics is characterized by “factional corruption.”
During Japan’s shogunate period, feudal lords kept retainers who were rewarded in return for their loyalty. The factional politics now prevalent in modern-day Japan is similar to that relationship. As factional leaders, members of Japan’s parliament, the Diet, keep a large number of secretaries and academics who are there to learn the ropes of political operation. The leaders of these factions need to look after other Diet members and, as a result, corruption becomes a necessary evil in the Diet. When the leaders of these factions take money it is difficult to avoid trouble. When that happens, their secretaries become scapegoats.