There seems to be a recent flood of news on China’s efforts to crack down on of corrupt practices of government officials. Today’s story about stopping the abuse of free government cars sounds good, though as usual I’ll reserve judgement until we can see what the crackdown really means. (I wish they had deleted the words “is considering” in the first sentence — it means the difference between BS and action.)
As part of its efforts to fight corruption and cut government expenditures, China is considering reforming its current practice of free car use for government officials.
The central authorities are mapping out a detailed plan for effectively preventing officials from using government cars for private purposes while guaranteeing their transportation need for official reasons, said official sources in Beijing.
The most-favored measure is to sell most of the cars possessed by governments at all levels and pay monthly transportation subsidies to the officials.
A large number of officials and even ordinary civil servants now enjoy the privilege of free use of government cars. Official statistics showed that there were more than 3.5 million governmentcars in service at the end of the 1990s.
The government spending on keeping these cars and their drivers,which added up to 72 billion yuan (8.77 billion US dollars) between 1991 and 1995, had soared to about 300 billion yuan (36.51billion dollars) a year at the end of last century.
A 2003 survey among residents of seven major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou showed that over 95 percent of the respondents supported an immediate reform of government car use.
Will the current populist approach of Wen and Hu actually result in lasting and meaningful change? Are they really listening and responding to what the people are saying? that’s the message of the last paragraph.
If so, it is a great sign, and if they keep it up they might even turn me around on the topic. That’s a big “if,” but I’m always willing to give credit where it’s due.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.