This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global-news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in The Economic Observer.
Just how many corrupt Chinese government officials have fled overseas? How much money have they stashed away? And how did they manage to transfer such colossal sums abroad?
Last week the Bank of China published a report entitled “How corrupt officials transfer assets overseas, and a study of monitoring.” The report quoted statistics based on research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Since 1990, the number of Communist Party and government officials, public security members, judicial cadres, agents of State institutions, and senior management figures of state-owned enterprises fleeing China has reached nearly 18,000. Also missing is about 800 billion yuan .
The Bank of China emphasized the fact that nobody, up to now, has been able to provide an authoratitive figure of the exact sum pilfered, and the recent figure of 800 billion yuan is only an estimate. It is nonetheless an astronomical sum. It is equivalent to China’s total financial allocation for education from 1978 to 1998. Each official stole, on average, an estimated 50 million yuan . Precisely because this is only an estimate, one can imagine the real numbers are actually much bigger. Some media have reported that the wife of the Deputy Chief Engineer of the Ministry of Railways, Zhang Shuguang, recently caught for corruption, owns three luxury mansions in Los Angeles, and has bank savings of as much as $2.8 billion in America and Switzerland. This gives a glimpse of the broader picture.
The number of corrupt officials fleeing China is a sign of the seriousness of the government’s attempt to tackle corruption. But if corruption, dereliction of duty and the abuse of power are the norm, then this escape of corrupt officials represents the corruption within a corrupt system. It highlights multiple embarrassments in China’s anti-corruption campaign.
From the initial corruption to organizing the smuggling of large sums of money abroad takes some time. For someone to be corrupt during this time without being caught, this is the first embarrassment.