Caixin
Mar 28, 2013 05:51 PM

Give Dirty Officials Amnesty? Absurd!

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The arguments of some academics to offer amnesty to corrupt officials, whether concrete or theoretical, are not convincing. My criticism of their stance can be summarized as follows. First, it pays no respect to common sense. Second, it is lacking in political imagination. Third, it doesn't take world history into consideration. Fourth, it's limited to theoretical knowledge and it neglects practical wisdom.

The arguments for amnesty are growing in volume recently, so much so that they're practically mainstream at this point, and that is truly perplexing. I am aware of an absurdity that is playing itself out, closely related to the Chinese political system.

The first argument for amnesty is that there are simply too many corrupt officials, so many that without amnesty the Communist Party and the nation will crumble.

Absurd! This line of reasoning brought to mind the recently deceased Albert Otto Hirschman (1919-2012), the so-called "thinker among economists." He realized that a major obstacle to economic growth is psychology. After studying the experience of developed nations and developing nations, he and his team came to believe that growth was impossible, while in reality every nation is constantly growing. Thinking that we have no choice but to offer general amnesty because there are too many corrupt officials is in the same vein as Hirshman's satirical psychological block. A little bit of political imagination goes a lot further than making history or gullibly believing in "ignorant experience."

Some legal scholars, or should I say scholars of the letter of the law, are singing the same tune of amnesty. Their argument is that in order to administer the nation by rule of law, we must first create laws specifically targeting corruption.

Again, absurd! When other nations have targeted corruption or culled crooked politicians, could they possibly have first drafted a set of laws in line with the principles of justice before setting their nation on the right track? Of course not.

Yes, Hong Kong did once offer general amnesty to "corrupt police officers." Yes, during the "Three Anti Campaign" in the early period after the party came to power, Mao Zedong realized that there would be immense resistance to revealing corrupt cadres, as once the party had entered cities from the rural base, corruption among cadres became rampant. So at the time he decided to pursue only the "tigers," and forgave the cadres whose corruption amounted to only small figures.

However, there is no going back to the international or domestic situation at the time of the "Three Anti Campaign" when the rule of the party was not solid yet, and it was particularly different from the situation of today. We've gotten to the point where national political stability is so tenuous that if we don't turn the corruption around, we face the collapse of the party and the nation. There's no comparing the two situations.

What we need now is a comprehensive assessment of our political situation. Whether we ultimately decide upon complete anti-corruption or complete amnesty, this decision is not the role of experts and academics, nor is it even something they're good at. However, the realities of our bureaucracy have given rise to an increasing number of "expert officials." More experts are willing to perform the functions of officials. 

In the early 1990s, New York led the United States in crime rate. So why in 2006 was the city's crime rate lower than Chicago's? Recently there has been widespread discourse among the American public about gun control laws President Barack Obama plans to implement. I listened to explanation former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani offered during a recent interview and agree with his points.

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