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Institutionalized austerity takes root in officialdom

Updated: Dec 6,2014 11:32 AM     Xinhua

Austerity rules are creating a “new normal” in China’s officialdom, turning some political attention from ceremony and bureaucracy to solid work. Two years on, it has been proved the austerity drive is not just “a gust of wind”, as some believed. Instead, as a long-term task, it has begun to be institutionalized by being written into Communist Party of China’s rules.

Dec 4 was the second anniversary of the issuance of the “eight-point” anti-bureaucracy and formalism rules. The campaign started in 2012 to reduce pomp, ceremony, bureaucratism and undesirable working styles.

By the end of September, more than 80,000 officials had been disciplined for dereliction of duty, indiscreet use of public vehicles, misuse of public funds for personal purposes, laziness, accepting gifts and a myriad of other offenses. More progress can be achieved only after an institutionalized mechanism is established. So far, rules on receptions, conferences and travel have been included in the Party discipline. The “eight-point” rules are purifying the country’s politics.

Old bad habits such as lavish banquets and traffic control during officials’ visits had alienated the masses from the Party and cast a shadow over its image.

But the campaign has given politicians a breath of fresh air and come as a sigh of relief for both officials and the public. Officials no longer have to be involved in social engagements, and many have applauded the campaign because they can spend more time with their families now.

The austerity rules are like the “Sword of Damocles” hanging above people in power. Officials’ mentality has gradually changed; they are humble and willing to truly serve the people. Of course, some are still adjusting to the new normal state.

But despite the leadership’s efforts to develop clean governance, Berlin-based Transparency International ranked China lower than the last time in its 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index issued on Dec 3. In response, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has said the index goes against facts, and only the people, who are aware of the anti-corruption results and resolutions, can come up with an objective evaluation.

Over the last two years, disciplinary watchdogs at all levels have pressed ahead with the anti-corruption campaign to ensure offenders are named and shamed, and their likes desist from indulging in illegal acts.

To make the campaign more successful and to prevent a revival of undesirable working styles, more details on officials’ life and work should be institutionalized. Stricter enforcement and external supervision, too, are required to boost the Party’s credibility and public confidence in the fight against corruption.