Lessons from Chinese Corruption versus past corruption in Japan, US and South Korea

In today’s program by Fareed Zakaria, I saw something very interesting – discussion on corruption in China.  China has been hit by corruption scandal involving a high ranking official Bo Xilai.

Fareed’s guest Evan Osnos – reporter for New Yorker based in Beijing.

Evan Osnos: Last year, there was a report that went up from the Chinese Central Bank, just for a few hours, on the Internet before it was taken down, which suggests that they never meant to release it. And what it said was that there was $180 billion U.S. dollars that had gone from the Chinese Treasury, from, essentially, public money, that had been taken overseas by corrupt officials. When that happened at the time, frankly, a lot of us thought: This can’t be right; the decimal place is off; something is off.
What we’re now starting to think is that, in fact, it’s plausible, that if there are enough Bo Xilais in the system, enough people who have assembled these economic empires for themselves, that quantity of money begins to be plausible.

Here is the video:

Why is it different with China?

Now, it was a remark after this that caught my attention the most.  I couldn’t find the exact remark, but Fareed Zakaria said – and Evan Osnos agreed – that corruption in China is not the first time that such a thing has happened anywhere.  US also in its history has gone through this stage, Japan also was highly corrupt before the World War II, even South Korea was in the same boat a few years back.  But there was one major difference between those countries and China.  They had democratic institutions which helped create movements and ways for the public to get rid of the bums looting their country.

Hope for India?

And, that made me think about India.  Does India have a future as long as its democracy allows it to start and sustain strong movements against endemic and damning corruption?  I think yes.  Rise of Baba Ramdev, and then Anna Hazare, along with Kiran Bedi and now Arvind Kejriwal.  This is a movement and people associated with it will not go away.  They will sooner or later take the consciousness of the masses to a crescendo, that will not let these corrupt politicians live anymore.

Arvind Kejriwal’s greatest contribution has been to bring out the connivance of all the political parties with Congress.

It is because the democratic institutions – specially the framework of checks and balances – are in place and work in some areas at least, the Government and the ministers of Dr. Manmohan Singh has been trying to subjugate these freedoms and structures with utmost alacrity!

Whether you go out and participate in anti-corruption rallies or not, at the very least, be extra aware of the damage to the democratic institutions.  Those need to be saved at all cost.  Whatever can still be saved.

In the ultimate analysis, that will be our only insurance!

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