Since taking office in November, Xi Jinping has been engaged in a campaign battling corruption, an epidemic that has plagued modern Chinese government since its conception in 1949. Despite a few highly publicized trials of powerful members of the Communist Party and the demand for civil servants to cut back on spending on luxuries, will any real, long lasting change come about?
At the beginning of every Chinese leader's term, policies are put in place to give the people hope for a new era of Chinese government, but these policies are then put to the side or executed ineffectively in the years to come. Is Xi Jinping's anti corruption battle just another in a long line of overly optimistic promises by the executive branch of Chinese government? For this, one could turn to the beginning of Hu Jintao's time in office in which he planned to fight corruption in government officials, but looking at China today, corruption is still a prevalent aspect of Chinese life.
However, one could also look at the extent in which Xi seems to be fighting the problem facing the nation. Bo Xilai, once an extremely powerful politician, is now on trial for embezzling over 5 million Yuan of public funds to give to his wife. Bo is not only expressing regret over the charges, but also a sense of shame, a rarity in Chinese politicians. In terms of statistical success, since policies were enacted to cut back on government workers purchasing luxury goods, overall spending on lavish products fell by 53%, thus reinforcing how much luxury good producers once relied on corrupt government officials' spending.
At the end of the day one must look at what Xi could stand to lose from a reduction in corruption, as odd as this statement may sound. The opulent and extravagant lifestyle of government officials is what attracts many young Chinese to civil service in the first place. While high level positions will hopefully be occupied by those whose first priority is to serve the nation, a high demand for government jobs provides support for the system and leads to an near endless supply of civil servants from all walks of life.
Only time will tell whether or not Xi's campaign will yield results. But I think the people of China, and the world, are hoping that this time a new, more honest period of Chinese civl servants will be ushered in.