Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sex, Money and Family: On the Cultural Battle Lines of Corruption in the United States and China

It is always interesting to compare national approaches to corruption.  These approaches sometimes provide a window on what is most acutely felt within national ruling elites as necessary markers of behavior self-control to manage the opinions of the masses.  They also provide insight into the cultural machinery that forms the foundation for the choices made. Two recent stories, one form China and the other from the United States, underline both the importance of reinforcing narratives of appropriate elite behavior and the cultural framework for choosing the type of behavior narratives to emphasize.  Both deal with issues of money, the management of the state apparatus and the obligations of public servants.  Both emphasize purity and responsibility narratives.  Both target corruption.  Yet while the Chinese narrative conflates family corruption with fiscal dissipation and disharmony, the American narrative conflates sexual perversion (moral dissipation) with dereliction of duty and the corruption of the state's role as guardian of economic harmony.     

1.  The Chinese Narrative.  In a recent story widely distributed in China and abroad, the "Communist Party of China ordered its senior officials yesterday to report any change in their marital status and whether immediate family members are living overseas in the latest stab at tackling corruption. The order came during a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee." Party wants info on spouses, income, Shanghai Daily, April 24, 2010.  
The Party ordered its leading officials at all levels to report change of spouses, whereabouts of their spouses and children if they have moved abroad, personal income, housing and investment of their family, in line with a new regulation. The regulation appears designed to prevent officials from hiding illicit income in the bank accounts of spouses, former spouses or other close family members. Party organizations at all levels were ordered to strengthen management and supervision of leading officials. Leading officials at all levels were told to honestly report relevant matters.

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