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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Heredity of Civil Service Positions, A Social Disaster

Hyperlink to source text in Chinese: 公务员世袭化是社会大灾难
Translated, proofread by @krizcpec

Ran note: The controversy over “Rich 2G*” is yet to be over; the shock and anger that “Crown Prince Party” have caused in the public is gradually spreading across the country, a phenomenon that needs more discussion and attention from all sectors of society. To me, the problem is not just about the “Crown Prince Party”, it is also about government officials who have turned, through nepotism, civil service positions into heredity. In other words, civil servants as a most secure “iron rice bowl” during economic crisis is now hereditary, and the ratio of positions filled by favoritism is shockingly high. Below is a column I wrote for China in Perspective, which explored the problems of heredity of civil service position, comments are welcome.

September 2, 2009, 7:46 in Chengdu

Heredity of Civil Service Positions, A Social Disaster

Not long ago, Time Weekly had a row with over the statement that 91% of the country’s billionaires are children of top party officials. The former represented the voice from the people; the latter, the official. To me, the skeptical voice from the people sounded more rational and more believable, while the explanation from the official was weak and flimsy. There is a long history of the Crown Prince Party, with the massive power and influence they have, riding roughshod over political and economic activities in today's China. As the saying goes, ice three feet thick result not from coldness of just one day. Theories of regime changes like “power comes from within the barrel of a gun” and "those who fought to rule the country shall reign" make it a certainty that the authorities see a regime as private belongings of one party, or one faction that no one else can encroach on. The peaceful, non-violent way of regime change by means of election is deeply resented by officials whose huge, unfair advantage would be affected by such change.

That the Crown Prince Party are inheriting dominance in political and economic sectors is very obvious. This too happens in less lucrative sectors like that of art and culture. That is to say, wherever interests exist, one can expect to spot ubiquitous snatching hands of the Crown Prince Party. Without real, effective system that can restrain them, government officials of lower levels would follow bad examples set by those in higher positions, and the hereditary culture of the Crown Prince Party has spread across all levels of governments, manifesting itself in the forms of parental nepotism and of bureaucrats using their powers to seek unjust advantages for their descendants. Last year in the city of Benxi three China Youth League cadres were promoted. They all are children of leadership of that city. After being questioned by the media and the public, Sun Mingdi, one of those offspring, argued that children of government officials too have the talent needed to succeed. Indeed they do, and they are very capable of success. The very fact that they were born to official families itself make them geniuses when compared to offspring of people in the street. What difference is there between this argument and Jus sanguinis?

Heredity of government official positions and civil service posts, and people cheating during civil service examination were originally done secretly. Now these are done in broad daylight, oblivious to criticism from the public. In the past they needed the fig leaf of “serving the public”, now they don't need this anymore. For the huge potential benefits, they fight with their gloves off. One of the incidents that illustrates this happened during Huangshan civil service examination, officials arranged government vehicles to send their children to sit for it. Although they did sit for that examination, the fact that they got there on government vehicles raised eyebrows. These examinees had to be “different” even when it came to sitting for a civil service examination, without any worries that that would reveal their identity. And how passionate and daring the officials had been in protecting the unjust benefits of their children! Recently at Gushi county, Henan province, twelve cadres were appointed, most of them children of officials; minister of organization came out and said, “our procedures are legal.” What was meant by that? Who set those procedures? Who made those laws? Has it been approved by the public? Has it credibility? Children of current or out-going cadres are being blatantly handpicked to fill government positions, all the masses know is that it's a result from officials conferring interests on one another, and that it's a hereditary privilege. Where then is openness and fairness?

“People aspire to work in the government with the specific intention to seek personal gain, those in office act as if they are traders. (出仕专为身谋,居官有同贸易)” Recently it has revealed that at a county in Jiangxi province, children of parents who are chiefs at sub-division level can go straight into administrative unit to work; children of parents who are deputies at the same level can have bonus marks when they sit for examination; and children to parents who work in education department can work in school directly. These are outrageous. And there are cases more outrageous than these: one example is a chief work in collusion with businesses, forging permanent staff record for thirteen years old relatives so as to pocket the salary, and file for internal retirement when that relatives turned twenty-four (and continue to get monthly allowance from the “workplace”). Descendants of government officials who have certain level of capacity would get leading positions in the government without hindrance; those who are not so capable would have their records forged to collect money directly. Those descendants are most happy if they can have access to both power and money; those who have access to either money or power can use one to exchange for another perennially, and in so doing they ensure that their own offspring can continue to enjoy the privileges.

Given that civil service positions have become the hereditary domain of children to government officials or civil servants, maintaining stability of civil workforce would naturally become the basic policy. And since civil service have become the territory of civil servants' offspring, they would of course make every effort to deprive the masses of their interests, and give top priority to maintaining stability, regardless of how that would abuse public power, or how conscienceless the measures are. These government officials and civil servants by inheritance resort to pathological and rigid measures to maintain stability not because they want real social stability, nor because they have the public's interests in mind. It is because pathological and rigid measures to maintain stability can best ensure protection of their interests.

In this time of global economic crisis, governments in many countries have laid off civil servants, or lowered their salary so as to weather the storm with the general public. In China the exact opposite are being done: not only has there been no public servant downsizing, but also an increase in the recruitment quota of the civil workforce, particularly the police; and not only was there no reduction in salary of civil servants, but also more rent-seeking space has been provided for them. These are done to ensure the civil servants would continue to work hard for and remain loyal to this regime, regardless of the grievance the civil servants, especially government officials, may cause in the public. A government that has no appetite for democracy, liberty, and political reform seems happy that civil service positions become hereditary, as they see this to be the only way to continue their reign. To us, heredity of civil service positions is heredity of power, and that is a disaster for the Chinese society, a disaster that would bring unpredictable consequences.

August 29, 2009, morning in Chengdu

* “Rich 2G”, Rich second generation, referring to Chinese men born into rich families after the 1980s.

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