Anti-corruption efforts must target bigger fish
BEIJING - China's disciplinary authorities should work to flush out government officials who have engaged in serious corruption, as they have already punished officials for relatively minor abuses of power.
The discipline watchdog of the Communist Party of China (CPC) lately announced penalties against six local officials and institutions for violating eight bureaucracy-busting guidelines put forth by the central authorities late last year.
These cases mostly involved low-ranking officials who were found to have used public funds for personal purposes, as well as borrowed government-owned vehicles for personal use and arranged extravagant dinners.
The cases have helped the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) to reassure the public of the new leadership's resolve to curb corruption, dissolving doubts that the leaders' words would not translate into action.
However, since the abuses were relatively minor, the public is still waiting to see disciplinary authorities push the campaign further by targeting higher-ranking officials, as well as those who have committed greater transgressions.
The terms "tiger" and "fly" were used by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and president of China, in a January speech to refer to, respectively, officials who commit major and minor crimes of corruption.
Xi said the government should target both types of officials by dealing with the illegal activity they have already engaged in and tackling corruption.
In the arduous fight against corruption, the CCDI has a vital role to play. With the latest penalty announcement, the commission has also shown the public its own resolve to carry out the anti-bureaucracy campaign.
It could be said that the commission is trying to "beat the dog before the lion," or punishing minor abuses of power for the purpose of intimidating those who may intend to commit more serious crimes.
There is reason to be optimistic that disciplinary authorities, under the new top leadership, will go to great lengths to clean up the government.
Since corruption has become a significant source of public distrust in the CPC, stopping officials from taking advantage of their positions is an urgent matter. If the government's disciplinary body is successful in this endeavor, it will also be doing itself a favor.