Ben W. Heineman Jr. On Corruption in China

In China, Corruption and Unrest Threaten Autocratic Rule
Ben W. Heineman Jr.
The Atlantic

In recent days, the western media separately reported two discrete stories on China -- one on corruption and a second on a social protest. The two are, however, part of broader, interrelated trends, which together constitute significant threats to autocratic China.

Event one was an online analysis from the money laundering bureau of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, stating that 17,000 Communist Party members and state functionaries had illicitly obtained and then smuggled out of China an astonishing $124 billion  from the mid-90s until 2008. These kleptocratic acts are symbolic of China's broader corruption.

Behind each separate, discrete headline on public corruption or social unrest in the daily media is this profound and long-term issue tying them together

Event two was a riot by migrant workers in the southeastern city of Zengcheng, in Guangdong province, forcibly put down by security forces. Migrant workers -- estimated to number at least 150 million nationally (roughly half the U.S. population) -- often protest because they lack residency rights, which are necessary for access to social benefits like education and healthcare in communities where they work. And these migrant worker disturbances are emblematic of a rising tide of social protest by a variety of groups, which occur at the local level, but which the authorities fear could coalesce into a national movement. Even Chinese authorities estimate that the number of demonstrations is approaching 100,000 per year.

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