Only Bo, not Wen

Only Bo, not Wen

Like India, China too is battling allegations of corruption at high levels. On the eve of the party congress that will unveil the leadership transition, allegations of corruption are hurting the outgoing leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao leadership, which carried out a highly publicised expulsion of a disgraced Bo Xilai on the charges of misuse of power and authority, including serious charges of corruption involving him and his family members, found itself in a highly embarrassing position when The New York Times came out with a long report last week detailing alleged accumulation of assets by Premier Wen Jiabao’s family to the tune of a staggering $ 2.7 billion. Expectedly, the web edition of the daily in question was blocked in the country.

While Chinese citizens might not have been able to access the report directly, bits and pieces of it were still available elsewhere on the web. So, the damage was done. Understandably, the Chinese foreign ministry came out with an unusually strong rebuttal of the report on Monday. The ministry spokesperson accused the newspaper of playing into the hands of those forces who always sought to create instability in China. There is no doubt that the report has hurt them, particularly in the backdrop of the high-profile Bo corruption case in which the party acted very swiftly.

In the political system that prevails in China, the truth may never be known; certainly not as long as Wen is on the right side of the power structure in the country. But, whether the contents of the report are well-founded or not, what is well known is that China too has been battling corruption at all levels over the years. The veil of secrecy around rampant corruption is lifted only when the Communist leadership chose to do so.

Hence, Bo’s misdemeanours came in the open when he, because of his political ambitions, fell out with the leadership. Lower down the party and the government bureaucratic hierarchy, there have been a number of high-profile instances of exemplary punishments meted out to corrupt men, including capital punishment. But disclosures of corruption at higher levels of leadership would hit the very credulity of the Chinese communist system, which has otherwise managed the country’s economic transformation well over the past three decades.