Written by Hu Angang.

Development is the core pursuit of all societies. However, as the saying goes, there is no free lunch and there is always a price to pay for development. Corruption is one such cost.

In the seminar held by the research department of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in 1995, I advanced the opinion that anti-corruption and development policies are equally important for our society. That is, it is not sufficient to focus solely on development without considering anti-corruption measures. From the perspective of calculating profits, anti-corruption measures are the best way to reduce the costs caused by development, and to contribute to further development in the meantime.

Although China has ranked in the first several places in economic growth rates, and has made extraordinary progress in social development, it is still paying a price for all this development, especially in terms of corruption.

The essence of corruption is transferring the belongings of the public to the private through illegal channels instead of generating any value or product. This phenomenon is not only observed in China, but globally. As it is stated in the book Constructing National Integrity System written by Transparency International, corruption exists in all social systems. Whenever and wherever it happens, damage is caused to the healthy development and welfare of societies and economies.

The globalization of economics has been accompanied by the globalization of corruption. The reform and opening up policy in China entangled domestic corruption problems by turning them international. An obvious example are the many corrupt officials who tend to flee overseas, often to a handful of particular developed countries.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption came into effect in December 2005. In the same year, China was one of the first 30 nations in the world to join the Convention. I argued at the forum of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection that it was wise for the Chinese government to participate in the mainstream global campaign against corruption. This development also launched a new phase of global anti-corruption.

Essential progress was made at the Ministerial Meeting of APEC in November 2014, where the Beijing Declaration of Anti-corruption was put forward. The Declaration stated that China will take action against corruption in cooperation with partners in the Asia-Pacific based on the principles and laws of China. In so doing, China has become an initiator of a global anti-corruption campaign by cooperating with the International Criminal Police Organization and related countries and areas. Until now, the China Country Bureau of the International Criminal Police Organization has sent out more than 70 arresting groups overseas, worked jointly with 69 countries and areas, and arrested 680 economic criminals.1

Although this is only a victory of the first phase of a global anti-corruption campaign, it shows the promising perspective of close cooperation in the battle against global corruption. Through the campaign, we believe that corrupt officials will be constrained by law and order and will have no place to hide.

Hu Angang is Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute of Contemporary China Studies at Tsinghua University. Image Credit: CC by Remko Tanis/flickr.

1 Li Yongzhong, ‘Discover the Second Battlefield of Anti-corruption Overseas’, People’s Daily, 2015.4.24