Slightly smaller than Taiwan, China’s Hainan Island has a population of about 8.6 million and last year generated about 483 billion yuan (US$67.5 billion) in GDP, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of China’s total GDP. It ranked 28th out of China’s 31 provinces and autonomous regions. It is a small island in more ways than one.
Nevertheless, this small island was last month the site of some shocking news, surrounding the sacking of a sub-provincial-level official named Zhang Qi (張琦).
A Standing Committee member of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Hainan Provincial Committee and CCP secretary of the Haikou Municipal Committee, Zhang, 58, was not exactly a towering figure in China’s bureaucracy.
Yet, when this low-ranking official was placed under the CCP’s shuanggui (雙規) extralegal detention and interrogation system on charges of “serious violations of party disciplinary rules and laws,” 13.5 tonnes of gold — with an estimated value of nearly NT$20 billion (US$651.87 million) — was reportedly found at his residence, along with 286 billion yuan (US$40.41 billion) of unknown provenance on the books.
The news of Zhang’s “House of Gold” was eagerly reported by Chinese as well as international Chinese-language media outlets, but Chinese authorities have neither confirmed nor denied the news.
The story essentially shows a low-ranking Hainan official giving a slap in the face to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who prides himself on his anti-corruption drive.
What is 286 billion yuan worth? It is more than half of Hainan Province’s GDP and 1.9 times higher than Haikou’s GDP of 151 billion yuan.
If the money was evenly distributed to Haikou’s population of 2.27 million, each resident would receive 126,000 yuan, or about NT$550,000.
In 2014, Zhang was CCP secretary of the Sanya Municipal Committee. In 2016, he was promoted to the Haikou post.
In terms of city population, Zhang’s position resembles being the mayor of Taoyuan, a city with a similar population of 2.23 million.
Within this brief five-year period, Zhang was able to loot as much money as half of the city’s GDP. What kind of regime allows an official to do that?
A city’s municipal committee party secretary has a lot of power at their disposal, but how are they able to amass such a fortune through “red envelopes” offered for help in various dealings, such as launching a business, land enclosures and development?
Is it likely that Zhang’s colleagues did not notice anything while all this corruption was going on?
If a poor city’s party secretary is powerful enough to amass so much money and became almost “as rich as a country,” it is unimaginable how much money a rich city’s party secretary — and a member of the CCP’s Central Secretariat — can embezzle.
It begs the question of whether members of the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and China’s National Supervisory Commission — so famous for their all-pervasive presence — are fast asleep.
When Xi assumed the presidency in 2012, the very first thing that he did was to launch a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.
In seven years, more than 1 million primary-level cadres have been brought to justice, and more than 100 officials provincial and ministerial-level officials have been sacked, with several of the CCP’s Central Committee members arrested.
One cannot help but ask whether China has succeeded in getting rid of corruption and achieved a more honest and upright governance. The answer is no.
Xi’s anti-corruption campaign only brought changes to the group of people living it up.
It is important to root out corruption from within the system and structure in order to address the issue properly. This is political common sense.
The root cause of China’s failure to weed out corruption is its systemic failings.
The CCP’s long autocratic one-party rule has led to a heavy concentration of power and a lack of a transparent supervisory mechanism often found in democratic countries.
As the saying goes: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The combination of power and money has become the root cause of graft and corruption in China.
China has about 46 million officials, with a government official to population ratio of 1-26. The rapid increase in the ratio of people feeding on imperial grain to the total population is hollowing out Xi’s great China dream.
Chen Chih-ko is a non-professional investor.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
Having returned to the UK late last year and with a Taiwanese spouse remaining in Taiwan, I have been afforded the chance to compare and contrast the UK and Taiwanese governments’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis. My early conclusions are that Taiwan benefits from a rational, competent government, which quickly recognizes, adapts to and confronts large-scale disasters. It is led by a government that does more than just talk of respecting democracy and human rights, one that is scrutinized and responds to criticism, one that is concerned about public opinion, and one that is used to dealing with emergencies on
The “Wuhan pneumonia” outbreak has become a pandemic, but many countries have yet to come to grips with the worsening severity of this medical crisis. Historian Robert Peckham has studied how the ecology of deadly diseases has changed from the late 19th century until today and, in his 2016 book titled Epidemics in Modern Asia highlights the intrinsic link between global connectivity and emerging infections. The frequency of outbreaks — from SARS in 2003 to swine flu in 2009 and today’s COVID-19 — and their rapid rate of transmission owe much to globalization. Better and cheaper transportation and communications technology have empowered
Early last month, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) was elected party chairman, winning with a seven-to-three majority over pro-Beijing former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), a two-time KMT vice chairman. Chiang’s victory has been interpreted as a generational change and the beginning of major party reform. In his inauguration speech on March 9, Chiang did not mention the so-called “1992 consensus.” Analysts believe that his most urgent task is to attract more young people to the party and win voter trust, and that he does not care about Beijing’s reaction. After joining the party chairmanship by-election, Chiang made his