The writing is on the wall for Chinese officials caught up in the latest hotbed of graft and corruption: calligraphy associations.
The written form has long been revered as an art in China and it was part of the civil service examinations in imperial times. More recently, inscriptions by communist China’s founding father Mao Zedong (毛澤東) can be found at sites across the country and the masthead of the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) official mouthpiece, is still printed in his bold, vigorous style. Even official workplaces are sometimes adorned with senior bureaucrats’ characters.
However, in a warning posted on its Web site on Tuesday, the ruling party’s internal watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, urged officials not to seek positions atop provincial art associations.
By doing so, the commission warns, leading cadres are “stealing the meat off artists’ plates” — and potentially opening themselves up to investigation by anti-graft inspectors.
“In some places, you will see dozens of vice presidents sitting atop the provincial calligraphy association,” the commission wrote in its notice. “It is enough to make one wide-eyed and dumbfounded.”
“What kind of behind-the-scenes profit is motivating officials to use their authority to grab literary laurels? And what kind of secrets are they keeping?” it asks.
The commission did not give any specific figures, but positions in calligraphy associations have often been viewed as a particularly lucrative honor for officials — whether or not they actually have the talent to succeed at the painstaking art — as higher ranks are associated with higher prices.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took power in 2012, China has been in the midst of a much-publicized anti-corruption drive, although critics say the CCP has failed to introduce systemic reforms to prevent graft, such as public disclosure of assets.
In addition to targeting high-level “tigers” and low-level “flies,” the campaign also has sought to curtail extravagant gift-giving, banquets and other excesses within the state sector.
“Wise choices should begin now, with cadres deciding on their own to resolutely retire at the peak of their career,” the commission said. “Why wait until it is too late to exit the artists’ associations, once the anti-corruption sword is already hanging over your head and the spring breeze of reform has swept away the filth?” it added, adopting an almost poetic tone.
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