It would be great if Chinese reporters, bloggers, citizens groups and, yes, Internet-empowered mistresses could expose corruption in ways that help make that transition both necessary and possible. However, these virtuous civil society actors will only succeed if they find allies in the Communist Party, if they can empower those party cadres who understand the risk to stability, and to their party’s future, posed by runaway corruption.
The Ji and Fan story is very entertaining. However, if it is just the tip of an iceberg of corruption that destabilizes China, it should not be a laughing matter. How Chinese officials behave or misbehave not only affects the US — from the value of its currency to the level of interest rates to the quality of the air Americans breathe — it might be the biggest thing that affects the US outside of its own government.
There is reason for worry.
“The boldness that Chinese leaders have shown in growing their economy from a backwater into the world’s second-largest has not been matched, of course, in developing democratic institutions but more importantly in developing good and honest governance,” said Jeffrey Bader, US President Barack Obama’s former senior adviser on China and the author of Obama and China’s Rise.
However, if China’s leaders do not take on this issue, he added, “then there will be more corruption, more alienation of ordinary people and more questions about China’s stability. That would be bad news not only for China but for the US, whose future is intertwined with China’s.”