1. The People’s Daily article, Thursday, August 4, 2011
A spreading phenomenon of corruption will inevitably damage the (Communist) Party’s working style, and the existence of corruption will inevitably goad its power onto the road of evil. If corrupt ideas develop, they will turn the relationship between cadres and the masses from a fish-water relationship into an oil-water, if not into a fire-and-water relationship
writes People’s Daily.
All people who hold power may easily abuse it – this has been true through the ages. Under accusations of corruption, Mexico’s Party of Institutionalized Revolution, which ruled the country for more than seventy years, had to step down. Corruption allegations also lead to the Philippine military mutiny, the Thailand unrests, and the Tunisian coup d’etat. The defeat of the USSR’s Communist Party, the overnight changes in Eastern Europe, the changes in political power thoroughly warn us that black corruption can corrode a red-blooded body, too.
(“一切有权力的人都容易滥用权力，这是万古不易的一条经验”。执政70多年的墨西哥革命制度党一度被指为“贪污党”下台，“腐败政治”也接连引发菲律宾兵 变、泰国骚乱、突尼斯政变，人们坚信腐败是执政者大敌。苏共的政亡人息，东欧的一夜剧变，政权的更迭更深刻警醒我们，黑色腐败同样会对红色肌体产生极大腐 蚀。)
The People’s Daily editorial then quotes tradition, Mao Zedong (毛泽东), Deng Xiaoping, and Hu Jintao, the latter of whom it says had repeatedly warned that if there were things that could harm the party in times of peaceful development, corruption was a protruding one. Passive corruption urgently needed to be addressed. A position of political power wasn’t a position once and for all, and only if corruption was punished, a long period of political stability (or a lasting good order – 长治久安) could be secured.
2. Defining “Passive Corruption”
While passive corruption (消极腐败) is most commonly seen as taking bribery, in contrast to active corruption, or giving bribes, official Chinese articles frequently refer to passive corruption in a wider sense. It doesn’t merely refer to taking bribes, but to authorities and departments which put their own interest before that of the public by excessive buildings, overstaffing (which in turn increases the risk of active corruption), bureaucracy (官僚主义), by wasting public means and resources (铺张浪费), and cronyism in recruitment or factionalism (宗派主义). A Council Act drawing up the Convention made on the basis of Article K.3 (2)(c) of the Treaty on European Union, on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union defines passive corruption as
the deliberate action of an official, who, directly or through an intermediary, requests or receives advantages of any kind whatsoever, for himself or for a third party, or accepts a promise of such an advantage, to act or refrain from acting in accordance with his duty or in the exercise of his functions in breach of his official duties
or, in a memorandum of understanding between the EU and Croatia,
Passive corruption is defined as the deliberate action of an official, who, directly or through an intermediary, requests or receives advantages of any kind whatsoever, for himself or for a third party, or accepts a promise of such an advantage, to act or refrain from acting in accordance with his duty or in the exercise of his functions in breach of his official duties in a way which damages or is likely to damage the European Union’s financial interests.
3. My Take on the Article
The editorial itself isn’t as dramatic as its eye-catching title – passive corruption is a mortal wound for political parties (消极腐败”是政党致命伤) – may suggest.
What appears to be rather exceptional in this editorial from the People’s Daily editorial department (评论部) is the referral to the ousting of once ruling parties abroad – it may double-function as a warning to officials, and as a hint for other readers that corruption is a world-wide chronical disease, as a white paper issued by the CCP in December 2010 put it, and nothing particularly CCP.
The ideal of a “fish-water relationship” between “cadres and masses” (干群“鱼水关系”), as referred to by People’s Daily on Thursday, was probably first stated by Mao Zedong – when defining warfare, and again in 1957:
Let me repeat. Correctly handling the contradictions among the people means following the mass line, which is consistently stressed by our Party. Party members should be good at consulting the masses in their work and in no circumstances should they alienate themselves from the masses. The relation between the Party and the masses is like that between fish and water. Without good relations between the Party and the masses, the socialist system cannot be established or, once established, be consolidated.
(“The Situation in the Summer of 1957” (1957 年夏季形势), July 1957, Selected Works, as quoted by marxists.org.)
*) I have found no online source for the original Mao Zedong quote in Chinese which would look trustworthy enough to link to – if you can verify the Chinese wording, let me know.