When Xi Jinping gave his first speech as president of China last year, he somewhat pointedly addressed growing public concern over corruption and the spending habits of officials. Eight months later, a series of moves by Beijing appear to signal a ramping up of efforts aimed at limiting cadre-level excesses.
On July 30, the Chinese government announced it had disciplined 2,290 party members from across the country so far this year for abusing their offices or intemperately spending state money. Eight officials were singled out by name and removed from their posts, The Boston Globe is reporting.
The admonishments stem from a nationwide prohibition on extravagant spending by public servants. Lavish official banquets and state-funded junkets that had become synonymous with governmental excess were banned earlier this year in the face of growing public outrage.
The reprimands announced this week do not appear to reach particularly high up into China's labyrinthine bureaucracy. However, this latest round of punishments could be a signal to everyone in the government — including senior level officials — to take note. As The Boston Globe report points out, China has hundreds of thousands of local, regional and national administrators to keep an eye on, not to mention an estimated 85 million Communist Party members.
While the disciplinary actions affected only a few thousand individuals, they may be an example of what the Chinese refer to as "killing the chicken to scare the monkey" (杀鸡吓猴). This idiom is a common way to express the idea of harshly punishing a few in order to send a message to everyone else.
The announcement that China had reprimanded wasteful officials comes less than two weeks after Beijing ordered a five-year, nationwide construction moratorium on new administrative buildings. Renovations are still allowed, but bureaucrats were warned "to be frugal and ensure that government spending goes toward developing the economy and boosting people's well-being."
Any spending reductions, be they to legitimate or graft-related expenditures, seem to be weighing heavily on the minds of Chinese policymakers. So much so, that Beijing has ordered a nationwide audit following credit agency reports suggesting the country's towns and municipalities may be saddled with more than US$3 trillion in debt.
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