TAI publisher Charles Davidson and regular TAI contributor Jeffrey Gedmin have coauthored a must-read piece in Politico about how China’s kleptocratic officials steal from the people. Here’s a taste:
In China, “princelings” is the term popularly used to describe the relatives of top party officials who enrich themelves by using their political connections and then hide their ill-gotten gains from public scrutiny. They’re reviled by ordinary Chinese, who are always on the hunt for signs of corruption. It was Chinese Web users who discovered the lavish lifestyle of a 56-year-old political commissar from the southern province of Guangdong, who managed to acquire 22 homes worth millions while earning less than $20,000 a year. Authorities felt compelled to act.
More often, such abuses go unpunished.
This should concern America because kleptocratic systems preclude the development of democracy. They distort the economy and, for tens of millions of ordinary people, cause untold social and environmental damage (last spring China’s authorities censured for graft and malpractice 63 agencies that carry out environmental risk assessments). Kleptocratic systems empower and protect dictators hostile to American interests and values. They also make for failed states. In his book “Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China” expert Andrew Wedeman contends that corruption in the current Chinese system exceeds “normal” development corruption and may ultimately lead to catastrophic, destabilizing effects.
The piece offers three specific recommendations for how the United States can combat kleptocracies, including increasing the president’s ability to sanction kleptocrats and eliminating shell corporations, and is a timely call for the U.S. to take a tougher line on crooked governance in an era of endemic corruption in Russia and China. Read the whole thing.