Zhu Yuan

If only absolute power of leaders is checked

Updated: 2009-12-23 07:23

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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In Mandarin, it's called jiaoyi. It literally means chair in English. The word in both languages carries similar nuance when its usage refers to privileges and favors accorded to those in power.

Despite the crackdowns on corruption and abuse of power, many still try to gain the opportunity to seize a "chair" to accelerate the achievement of their wanton goals - money, women and the freedom to do many things that they can never do otherwise.

A close look at the ecology of officialdom may provide us with an insight into how corruption breeds and how this leads to civil servants losing their morals.

The fiction Memoirs of Civil Servants by Wang Xiaofang provides us with a glimpse into behind-the-door scenes of how certain public officials were obsessed on paving their way into powerful positions, with a keen view of the accompanied bounty.

Through personal accounts, Wang shows readers of how each individual in a city government department uses different tactics to cull for promotions from their immediate superiors or those in higher positions.

The book also tells of how a person becomes disillusioned by their ideals or dreams of becoming a responsible government official.

When everyone and everything evolves around a chair with absolute power, mediocrity tends to fester into a state where everyone involved will degenerate.

Only in such a condition can one adapt to the ecology of officialdom and then have the chance of being promoted. Anyone climbing the ladder of hierarchy in such manner tends to expect to be treated on similar grounds by his subordinates.

As a result, it has become a vicious cycle, which makes it difficult for anyone in the officialdom to be upright. And it even makes it impossible for anyone to devote themselves whole-heartedly to their work. Developing the habits of using bureaucratese, leaders are massaged the way it's encouraged at the expense of public interest. Rather than adhering to good principles, the occasional lies have simply turned to be a normal way of life for ambitious officials.

In such environment, it is always those talented or honest who would end up at the bottom of the hierarchy as they may have a higher moral ground or may not know how to pander favors for their leaders.

This reminds me of what Li Yuanchao, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and minister of the organization department of the CPC Central Committee, said recently about the selection of officials. He said that honest people who do not curry favor with or do anything by anticipating what leaders are thinking about should be promoted.

He is absolutely right. But what is the issue is how such people can be promoted. From reading Memoirs of Civil Servants and by looking around us, it is not difficult to find that most of those on the position of top chairs have absolute say over many things including who should be promoted. So it is their moral character that matters. Those honest and upright officials will hardly have any chance of getting promoted in such ecology of officialdom unless the absolute power of those is effectively checked. Worse, some may learn to follow bad examples in order to get promotions.

Democracy within the Party is what the Fourth Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in October emphasized to function as a way to check the absolute power of those on top positions at all levels.

Then comes the question of how. Specific measures are needed for democracy to materialize within the Party. We are still waiting for such measures to change the ecology of officialdom for the better.

E-mail: zhuyuan@chinadaily.com.cn


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