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When it comes to corrupt Chinese officials, you get what you pay for

[ 2014-03-12 10:33] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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Chinese officials can’t get any respect these days. And they probably don’t deserve a pay bump, either.

That was the sharp reaction of at least 20,000 internet users who body-slammed a suggestion made last week by a representative to China’s annual “Two Sessions” that the salaries of government officials need to increase.

He Xiangjiu, a delegate from the China Writers Association to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, was the one who made the proposal. “Most junior-level civil servants work diligently with an intense workload,” He argued, “but they have a particularly low monthly salary, not unlike the income of migrant workers.”

Proponents of a pay raise have argued that making officials’ salaries competitive with the private sector would help China attract better-qualified civil servants while also reducing incentives for corruption–especially if those salaries are publicized. Indeed, low salaries are one of the chief complaints officials have when asked to comment on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption push.

But it’s still a tough sell to a skeptical citizenry in China. Many Chinese believe that the official salaries earned by bureaucrats are meaningless, because, in their view, even the well-paid ones loot public money and use government funds for personal use. Many critics of He’s proposal wondered why more money should be given to immoral cadres intent on supplementing their incomes anyway.

Others were equally dismissive, with one blogger noting that everyone knows that civil servants enjoy “a variety of benefits from being in high positions,” and for many bureaucrats, “work is nothing more than being idle, reading the newspaper, clean their offices, and wait for work”.

Another annoyed post claimed that if civil servants wages were as low as those of migrant workers as He says, that the government should be more concerned about the latter, not the former.

Censors let frustrated netizens slap He Xiangjiu around—a sign that Party heavyweights weren’t thrilled about underwriting even this minor attempt to help out their lower-level comrades. In fact, the Party line at first was that government officials were not paying enough attention to why many citizens were furious with them.

As one Party commentator wrote, “while [the responses do] express some irrationality, that may show the true sense of the mood.” Cadres, the commentary stated, “need to get caught up to the state of public opinion…for the sake of less misunderstanding and to make progress towards more productive discussions with the public.”

But not everyone in the Party feels that way.

For example, a sharply-worded commentary from Beijing Evening News that appeared on the website of People’s Daily blamed the response the absence of requirements for civil servants to reveal how much they make. The way forward, the essay insisted, “is to require the [civil servant] system to ensure transparency…for the more transparent, the more able [authorities will be able] to dispel the doubts of the public.”

In other words, the onus is on the government for not making information available and officials held accountable.

He Xiangjiu agreed with that latter view, as he said in the wake of the public reaction that “officials are public figures; they should accept social supervision.” He noted that he has disclosed his own financial situation (a monthly salary of 4000 yuan, or roughly $650, after taxes) but meekly conceded, “under the current system my declaration is not yet fully open to the public for viewing.”

How likely is a pay raise? The same day that He’s proposal broke into the open, a high-ranking CPPCC Committee chair stated that, “taking into account China’s national conditions,” neither he nor the masses would approve of increasing officials’ salaries. Yet the following day, a high official in the administrative apparatus overseeing the civil service in China indicated that pilot studies of the feasibility of a pay adjustment for civil servants were continuing.

By the end of the weekend, a separate government webpage appeared, with leading delegates debating the merit of pay raises.

It’s encouraging that such a robust discussion on the practical issue of pay could occur at this highly scripted legislative gathering.

But the fact that there’s resistance to a simple pay raise points to a major dilemma that the Xi leadership faces: How do you tackle corruption when there’s so little transparency of official salaries and assets and when Party credibility itself isn’t on the increase?

The “Two Meetings” probably don’t have the answer, but at least they’ve asked the question.

(By Russell Leigh Moses)




















(译者 timduncan21 编辑 丹妮)