China’s Wukan Protest and Corruption – Another Side of the Story

One of the major flaws with some western writers is that, there is a common lack of detail studied and understanding of policy development on the respective issues in the developing countries such as China: journalists and writers alike simply hop in and begin all kind of negativity against the Central government as and when an incident took place within some corners of the society.

Taking the recent Wukan village protest as example, one need just to follow a series of activities and policies announcement  made by the Central Government over a period of 12 months, one will understand why the Wukan protestors bothered to make an effort to have their voice heard by the government in Beijing.

Policy on Land and housing expropriation over a period of 12 months

At the beginning of 2011 (XinHuaNet, 22 Jan, 2011), the Chinese government issued new regulations on housing expropriation with the following principles:

  • Neither violence nor coercion may be used to force homeowners to leave;
  • Nor could measures, such as illegally cutting off water and power supplies be used in relocation work;
  • Land developers are banned from involvement in the demolition and relocation procedures;
  • Local governments are banned from demolition without court approval; and
  • Compensation for expropriated homes should be no lower than the sum of the market price of similar properties at the time of an expropriation.

In April 2011, Premier Wen Jiabao rounding off a three-day visit to the impoverished Luliang, Shanxi province, and told residents that “their land is a “fundamental social security” and that any transfer in use should first be agreed with the farmer.” (China Daily, 5 April, 2011)

In July 2011, the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Supervision published a list of “73 officials from 31 cities and counties who had been punished for various infractions connected to the illegal use of land.” (China Daily, 8 July, 2011)

A week later, in an effort to standardize land acquisition regulations, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the Ministry of Land and Resources jointly issued an order to “phase out rules and regulations contradictory to or not in line with the national regulation.” (China Daily, 15 July 2011)

In August 2011, to fight corruption at the grassroots level, the central authorities issued “the first regulations forbidding township and village officials from appropriation of land, embezzlement and vote buying … the regulation applies to millions of officials at the lowest administrative level in China’s 600,000 villages.” (China Daily, 1 Aug, 2011)

After the Wukan incident, a new amendment to China’s Land Management Law is being drafted to “reform and standardize land expropriation practices and transfers of land-use rights over collectively-owned land (in rural areas), as the current version of the law has been proven to be outdated.” (China Daily, 31 Dec, 2011)

Unlike the “do-nothing Congress” with endless negativity and political gridlock in the United States as a result of partisan politics that lead the country to nowhere, the speedy draft of the further law amendment to cover collectively-owned land (in rural areas) after the Wukan incident is simply another example showing the efficiency and determination of the central government to perfect its current legal frame work and to close up any legal loophole on the issue of land and housing expropriation.


China is a huge country with 20% of the world humanity and 600,000 villages. The country is managed by a political party with 80 million members (few times the total population of many European countries combine). It is also a developing country rebuilding itself from ashes 62 years ago after a century of colonial exploitations and imperial invasions. There should be no surprise that all kinds of problems needed to be fixed across the country as time goes. The important issue is how the central government handles those problems when they arise.

Like any human society, it is hard to monitor the behaviour of every individual within the government. People do get attracted to temptation and commit crimes or make mistakes at times like the 325 British MPs who have been “ordered to pay up or explain their parliamentary allowances” in an inquiry into the Commons expenses scandal in 2009 (UK Telegraph, 10 Oct 2009); there is no different in the U.S. society, a report by the New York Times on 19 December, 2011, indicated that “Brooklyn Senator, Carl Kruger expected to plead guilty in corruption case.”; and another report by the Christian Science Monitor on 7 December, 2011 with this heading shows that corruption is not exclusively Chinese: “Rod Blagojevich 14-year sentence a warning to corrupt politicians.”

The trouble with some western authors is that, when there is corruption within the US or UK political institutions, it is usually reported as the behaviour of the respective individuals, but when they happen in China, they simply blame the communist party or the central government in Beijing without taking into consideration that China has a much bigger population and it is still a developing country with much lower average wages. When corruption cannot be eliminated in developed countries like the US and UK, how can people expect the issue of corruption be fixed overnight in a developing country with the size of China?

There is no doubt that serious corruption exist in the Chinese society, especially officials at the grassroots and middle management level who are at the forefront of all kind of business and financial activities. Such corruption in part also due to the imperfect ‘check and balance’ legal and administrative structure within the Chinese system.

The government have introduced a series of measures in an effort to overcome the deficiencies:

In February 2010, the Hong Kong Media, Ifeng (in Chinese language) reported a list of 52 guidelines outlined by the communist party on what the party cadres are not allow to do.

In August 2011, a “bribe-reporting website” was approved by the authority after clearing legal obstacles (China Daily, 9 Aug, 2011).

As a means to trace corruption and the misused of public fund, the National Audit Office (NAO) has expanded its activities and managed to recoup $41b of misused funds uncovered for the year 2010 (China Daily, 4 January, 2012).

In addition, the Communist Party of China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) released a figure in 2011 revealed that 146,517 officials across China were punished for disciplinary violations in 2010 (CNTV, 1 Nov 2011).

As a result of such activities, we have also witnessed more and more foreign executives been prosecuted in China for corruption acts such as bribery. The widely publicized Rio Tinto case in March 2010 is just an example in which the Australian executive eventually pledged guilty and disputed only the amount of money involved.


The reality with China is that, the central government consistently receiving very high level of people satisfaction with the country direction rating in any survey over the last 6 years. A 2009 survey by Tony Saich of Harvey University indicated a 95% satisfaction with the central government, and 61% for local level governments (East Asia Forum, 24 July 2011).  The survey by the US based PEW since 1995 on the issue of satisfaction with country direction, also consistently putting China well ahead of the rest of the world.

Journalists and authors alike should put in the time and effort to objectively studied the country they wish to write before laying their fingers on the keyboard . Any on-going negativity against specific country or culture only serve to blind oneself from  one own short-coming, and to deprive oneself the opportunity to be inspired and learned from the success stories of other as a mean for self-improvement.

Written on 16 Jan 2012 by

Wei Ling Chua – Author of the book: Racism in Australia—The Causes, Incidents, Reasoning and Solutions

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