Rule spearheaded by top leadership yields remarkable outcome in weeding out corruption, hedonism, wins support
Rooting out extravagance
Published: Dec 26, 2022 11:10 PM
Editor's Note:

Who is the Communist Party of China (CPC)? What is the CPC's role in the new era?

The CPC has grown into one of the largest ruling parties in the world in the process of leading the Chinese people in seeking liberation and happiness, making China as strong and prosperous as it is today.

As the CPC ushers the nation into a new era of development, the last decade has witnessed great achievements in national strength and prosperity, with people's confidence and recognition of this path rising to unprecedentedly high levels.

With more than 96 million members, the CPC concluded its 20th National Congress in October, which realized the goals of unifying thinking, fortifying confidence, charting the course for a new era, and boosting morale. The Global Times is publishing a series of stories to help the world understand the CPC in this new era, through stories from CPC members working on the frontlines of various fields, as well as through observations made by respected scholars.  

This installment shares highlights from an interview with a front-line Party member working in the discipline inspection system who is responsible for the supervision of Party members' work conduct, on how China's anti-corruption endeavor has yielded tangible results in the last decade and led to stricter self-governance and a purer society.

Party members attend an anti-corruption-themed warning education session in Dachang Hui Autonomous County 
of North China's Hebei Province. Photo: cnsphoto

Party members attend an anti-corruption-themed warning education session in Dachang Hui Autonomous County of North China's Hebei Province. Photo: cnsphoto

About a decade ago, the purchase of expensive gifts had been part of shopping ritual in every Mid-Autumn Festival - widely believed to be a good chance for some people seeking to curry favor with government officials, superiors, influential relatives, and business decision-makers. It had been a common scene for some officials to make appearances at four or five sumptuous feasts in just one night. People were used to exchanging treats to maintain contact, while their wallets and bodies were drained altogether. However, in late 2012, the CPC released its eight-point rules on frugality to combat undesirable work practices. 

The eight-point decision was first made public on December 4, 2012 after a Political Bureau meeting, convened days after Xi Jinping took the helm of the Party. Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, led the efforts to formulate the rules, which aim to improve the Party's style of work and maintain its close ties with the people.

The eight-point decision, spelled out in just over 600 Chinese characters, targets pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance, and seeks to rein in privilege-seeking attitudes and behavior.

In March 2013, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection for the first time released to the public six typical cases that violated the spirit of the CPC Central Committee's eight-point regulation to the public, which made many people realize that the eight-point regulation is far more than a slogan.

Since 2013, changes have taken place imperceptibly. In the past, weddings and funerals were occasions for holding big feasts, but now, banquets are simpler and more affordable, experts told the Global Times.

After a decade of enforcement, the regulation has improved the political environment in the Party and won public support. The CPC Central Committee has pledged to steadfastly implement the eight-point decision.

"If misconduct is not corrected but allowed to run rampant, it will build an invisible wall between our Party and the people," Xi warned at the first meeting of the Political Bureau of the 20th CPC Central Committee on October 25 in Beijing.

Xi ordered unswerving efforts to implement the spirit of the eight-point decision, as Party conduct has "a direct impact on its prospects of winning or losing public support, and indeed on the very survival or extinction of the Party and the state."

More than 769,000 violations have been dealt with since the implementation of the regulation, a move which Chinese experts said has made great strides in the CPC's stricter self-governance and building of a purer society.

Data shows that since September 2013, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Commission of Supervision have both published their monthly report on the punishment of officials flouting frugality rules for 110 months in a row.

On October 16, in his report delivered to the 20th CPC National Congress, Xi said that the Party will steadfastly implement the central Party leadership's eight-point decision on improving conduct, continue to tackle pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance, with a focus on the first two, and that it will resolutely root out privilege-seeking mindsets and behavior. 

Local civil servants decorate a themed wall at an exhibition featuring combating corruption and building a clean government in Nantong, East China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: IC

Local civil servants decorate a themed wall at an exhibition featuring combating corruption and building a clean government in Nantong, East China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: IC

Watchdog with detailed rules

"Bureaucracy, extravagance, and undesirable work practices are always a hotbed of corruption. There has never been a single corruption case that does not involve corrupt work conducts," Tan Jun (pseudonym), who is in charge of overseeing Party members' conduct and integrity at the top discipline watchdog, told the Global Times. He described his job as being like that of a "cleaner" who checks, sweeps, and overhauls "dirt and failures" in the work behavior of Party members.

In the eyes of Tan, corruption has long been seen as one of the major headaches for the Party and the government, and one of the most intolerable social problems for many ordinary people. In 2012, Xi launched the anti-corruption campaign, which has led to the downfall of a number of high-level officials, known as "tigers," and lower-level "flies" who serve at the grassroots level.

In the battle against corruption, an official's rank doesn't exempt him or her from being punished for corruption, Tan noted.

"When the eight-point decision was just introduced, people were not very clear on the specific requirements and standards, and there were two extremes of cognition - at one extreme, many did not believe it could be truly applied to every Party member; Some others showed extreme fear and even brought their own instant noodles for meals on business trips," Tan told the Global Times.

"The decision's intention is to streamline bureaucracy and to cut waste and extravagance, but not to be a barrier to normal personal contacts and productivity. After that, the specific implementation plan and specific rules of the eight-point decision have been refined continuously. For example, the scale of each meal, the number of people at each meal, and the dining standards of different levels of officials have all been turned into quantifiable and enforceable detailed rules," he said.

The relationship between officials and businessmen has also been reshaped. Since 2016, the CPC Central Committee started to advocate for "cordial and clean" relationship between government and business. In an effort to foster a healthier relationship, many local governments have introduced detailed regulations and checklists to make the boundaries clearer, making more business owners understand that a successful business depends on market values and never on nepotism.

However, under the tightened crackdown, Tan said that some Party members and cadres still exploit loopholes to evade supervision via various tricks, playing cat and mouse game with inspectors.

For example, in order to avoid inspection, some officials choose to host and entertain guests in the internal canteens of some companies that are outside the scope of regulation, where the companies arrange the meals and drinks carefully and pay for all the expenses. Similar "loophole" practices exist, becoming a new trend and a challenge, Tan explained.

In Tan's views, supervisors are not cats, but watchdogs who truly protect cadres from further corruption and severe mistakes.

Positive trends in whole society

Central and local authorities have rolled out detailed regulations and mechanisms to ensure the implementation of the eight-point decision, bringing about sweeping changes in both officialdom and the society over the last decade.

Disciplinary watchdogs of various levels keep a close eye on breaches of the frugality rules, especially during the holidays that usually see a rise in gift giving and the holding of banquets and ceremonies. Malfeasants are identified, named, and shamed. 

Tan told the Global Times that the broader significance of the eight-point decision for the whole society lies in the sweeping of formalistic and bureaucratic practices that cost a lot of manpower, energy, and financial resources. The crackdown on bureaucracy has greatly improved work efficiency and reduced the burden on grassroots-level officials.

Official meetings, documents, and examinations have been drastically cut down since then. Data showed that between 2018 and the end of 2021, documents issued by central and state organs and provincial-level governments were more than halved, the number of meetings dropped by over 65 percent, and inspections and examinations plunged by over 90 percent.

Data from a public opinion poll conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2022 showed that 95.7 percent of the Chinese people lauded the implementation of the eight-point decision spearheaded by the CPC Central Committee.

In the last ten years, people's complaints about violations of the eight-point decision have been highly valued by discipline inspection authorities, and the channels for complaints have become increasingly diversified. Discipline inspectors receive every possible tip, Tan suggested.

"It is fair to say that the eight-point rule has changed China to a great extent, witnessing a healthier social atmosphere. Before the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the misconduct and extravagant lifestyle of many officials set a poor example for ordinary people. Extravagance and hedonism are never the proper ways for  Party members, and should never become the mainstream of the social atmosphere. Otherwise, it will only widen the gap between the rich and the poor, and exacerbate social conflicts," Tan told the Global Times.

The eight-point decision is not a five- or ten-year rule, but a long-term and effective iron-clad rule which significantly bolsters public trust for the government, Tan stressed, adding that "Party members must take the lead in carrying forward the Party's fine traditions and conduct, strictly abide by the eight-point decision, and earnestly fulfill their social responsibilities."