Asia

Psychological Test Latest Measure to Combat Chinese Corruption


“Do you agree with the view that ‘officials should use their power before it expires’?” “Do you want to have an extramarital affair?”

Those are just two of the 34 questions included in a psychological assessment handbook now being used in China’s Jiangsu province. Its aim: testing civil servants’ proclivity for illegal behavior, including bribery and embezzlement.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping continues his anti-corruption crackdown, vowing to snare “tigers” and “flies,” or both high-ranking and lowly officials, even personality tests are being employed.

Hotlines have been established to tip off authorities about official malfeasance (especially important in the traditional gift-giving period before Chinese New Year, which starts on Jan. 31), and officials at the ministerial and provincial level will have to “submit a clean-governance report to the central authorities annually,” reported the official English-language China Daily on Dec. 26.

“Corruption is still widespread. The soil that nourishes corruption still exists, and the situation remains critical and complicated,” states the Communist Party’s Central Committee in its five-year graft-busting plan (2013-17). Unchecked corruption will “threaten the survival of the Party or nation.”

China’s graft-busters investigated 27,236 cases of embezzlement and bribery between January and November last year, sentencing 36,907 people, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said in a statement released on Jan. 5. Some four-fifths of those were major cases, or those involving embezzlement of more than 50,000 yuan ($8,261).

Meanwhile, the new handbook is being mocked as “naive” in the Chinese media. “Such superficial questions cannot elicit truthful answers and, hence, they will not allow the authorities to determine whether officials are prone to corruption,” opined an article on website qq.com, reprinted in China Daily on Jan. 3.

“Moreover, many corrupt officials can pretend to be honest and good performers in the public and carry on their corrupt activities on the sly. Therefore, such disguise and faking cannot be exposed through a simple test,” the article continued.

“Although experts say such a test can instill fear in corrupt and potentially corrupt officials and compel them to stay away from illegal activities, the public feels the move could be more effective if the authorities also used suitable regulations to force officials to declare their assets and strengthen social supervision.”

Despite calls for more transparency, to date only a handful of cities have required officials to publicly release their property holdings and other assets.

Dexter_roberts
Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek's Asia News Editor and China bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @dtiffroberts.

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