The Problem of Corruption in China

Could this be a door of opportunity for Christians?

Daniel Bell considers the problem of corruption in contemporary China, and offers suggestions about a way forward for Chinese Communist higher-ups (“China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign and the Challenges of Political Meritocracy,” in American Affairs, Summer, 2020).

Corruption at the lowest levels of government has been a problem from the beginning of the Communist regime, especially because it occurs in that aspect of government that has most contact with ordinary people. The people resent having to pay bribes or otherwise support the high life of low-level officials; and a restive population of billions is not to the liking of the 90 million members of the Chinese Communist Party. Recent crackdown has taken the form of Legalism, in which stiff penalties were imposed on corruption in all levels and expressions of Chinese Communist rule. But this has created a kind of paralysis of decision-making: people are afraid to do something for fear of being out of bounds.

Bell thinks Confucianism and more democracy can help – the former for choosing high level officials (Confucianist meritocracy), the latter for selecting lower level officials (Western democracy). China is hoping to achieve a more moral leadership, one in which officials would not so much as think of doing something corrupt. Good luck on that. They may instruct future leaders in ancient moral codes, but unless they can change the hearts and desires of leaders, corruption will continue to be a problem.

Which makes it such a contradiction that China persecutes the segment of its population that holds the most potential for producing moral leaders for all walks of life – the Christian community. Chinese leaders recognize that they need to give more value to all vocations – having a role in government has historically been the only really worthwhile calling. They want to appreciate the roles of farmers, shopkeepers, homemakers, and more; and this is precisely what the Christian worldview does. Yet China persists in hounding, harassing, and dispersing believers and their churches.

We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in China. It may be that soon a door of opportunity will open for them; or it may be that persecution will increase. If the former occurs, China and all its people will be blessed. If the latter happens, look for more corruption and oppression on the part of Chinese Communist Party leaders.

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