China Leadership Monitor

So Crooked They Have To Screw Their Pants On: New Trends in Chinese Military Corruption

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Corruption is the most dangerous cancer in the Chinese party-state today, and PRC media are replete with new revelations of official corruption at every level of the system. Not surprisingly, the military vanguard of the Party continues to be plagued by the same corrosive institutional corruption as the Party itself, despite divestiture from commercial operations in 1998 and eight intervening years of focus on rapid combat modernization. This article examines recent trends in Chinese military corruption, including the Wang Shouye scandal and the current PLA campaign against “commercial bribery.” It concludes that corruption in the PLA appears to have transitioned from a major, debilitating problem in the go-go days of PLA, Inc. in the 1980s and 1990s to a more manageable issue of military discipline in the new century. At the same time, the complicity of the military leadership in hiding Wang Shouye’s extraordinary extra-legal behavior until one of his mistresses forced its hand suggests that leadership has not institutionalized anti-corruption norms. Accordingly, military leadership analysis is a key element of understanding the depth and breadth of PLA corruption.