In recent times there have been a constant flow of stories about corrupt officials exposed by Chinese media. Officials take bribes of tens of millions of yuan or illegally possess dozens of houses, exceeding the public's wildest imagination. But why do they feel they need such a considerable amount of money and so much property? This is an interesting question.
Wealth is one measure of the success of an entrepreneur or a businessman, while for officials, wealth accumulated illegally is like a bomb that will explode at any moment, bringing fatal risks despite satisfying their greed. This argument is clear, but in reality, it doesn't convince officials to steer clear of corruption. One of the fundamental reasons is that traditional beliefs and values have collapsed due to the emergence of the market economy. Money has increasingly become the dominant measure of success in many fields.
This worship of money is rooted within issues relating to society itself. If there are loopholes in systems that attempt to restrict officials' behavior, or if they believe they might escape punishment, they will indulge their lust for money.
Fighting against corruption not only involves reconstructing institutions but also rebuilding a system of values. Moreover, it requires carefully arranging officials' legal income. Otherwise, fighting corruption could be nothing but a campaign in which the public temporarily vents their anger over certain officials who have had their corrupt activities exposed in the media.
To crack down on corruption, we need to impose severe punishments and accordingly, also need to provide officials with legal income under the market economy. But it's not easy for society to reach such a consensus. People aren't likely to be generous when it comes to their own pocket. Many of those who insist upon the existence of the income gap refuse to objectively analyze the laws of societal development, but prefer to put the interests of their own group above everything else.
In the current system, officials can only secure a certain amount of legal income after getting promoted, but once they reach a certain level promotions are hard to obtain. Giving them a sense of success in their position is one aspect of value reconstruction that should receive attention. The officials' sense of success comes from respect for their contributions.
Money worship can destroy a society. There must be something equally important and valuable as money. In the US, senior officials can exchange their reputations for tangible benefit after leaving their posts, but China cannot learn this from the US. It's also impossible to remedy the situation simply through moral lectures, therefore, we should make innovations and breakthroughs in reconstructing a value system.
The construction of cleaner forms of governance has become an irreversible trend in China. Any officials hoping to illegally accumulate wealth will come to a dead end. But if we cannot build a new value system, the course of fighting corruption will also come to an impasse. Clean governance is a project that is much more difficult than economic development. It's related to constructing institutions as well as battling human instinct. China has only just begun this endeavor.