“Controlling corruption will be a huge challenge for any regime,” says Lu Xiaobo, a professor at Barnard, Columbia, who has written a book about official corruption in China. “Realizing that it’s a problem and making it a priority does not necessarily mean they will be successful” in fighting it.
China’s citizenry could be forgiven for being skeptical. Their leaders have been decrying corruption – and doing very little about it – for decades. But some corruption experts here say there may be reason for a little more hope this time.
“For a long time everything was focused on economic development, and that was the primary task,” says Mao Zhaohui, head of the Anti-Graft Research Center at Beijing’s Renmin University. “That is changing” as other political priorities emerge, he believes.
“Xi Jinping’s approach seems clearer and more systematic,” argues Professor Mao. Though it is too early to judge it, Mao expects Xi to build on his predecessor Hu Jintao’s call at the recent 18th Party Congress for steps “to ensure that the people oversee the exercise of power and that power is exercised in the sunshine.”
At the same time, Wang Qishan, the man chosen to head the Communist Party’s Discipline Inspection Commission, the top anticorruption agency, is a tried and trusted troubleshooter.
“I think Xi Jinping’s comments represent a strategic choice,” says Mao. “The next step is the biggest obstacle – putting it into practice.”