The entire titanic operation is filled with contradictions, as one might have rightly expected. Honesty is confronted on two main levels: individual behaviour, primarily in economic terms, and the direction of politics. Are these concepts free from dishonesty or the violation of ethics? The narrative confirms the impossibility of making progress solely in the respect of probity. China’s problem is to understand how integral honesty – or its opposite – really is for the system. The most striking examples, like the removal of Bo Xilai, his wife’s death sentence, and the underground battle for the top spots in the CCP, are just the tip of an iceberg of unknown shape but clear proportions. The secrecy of China’s system does not provide official “truth” regarding juicy political files, generating in turn imaginative theories that are then spread through the new means of mass communication. In the absence of transparency, the regime has exposed itself to conjecture, if not outright fantasy and gossip.
The case of Chinese copies of intellectual property is illuminating. The widespread manufacturing of counterfeit goods in China is well known and in blatant contradiction of international agreements. Foremost is the fact that the clearly illegal aspect of the problem cannot be mitigated by cultural considerations. Perhaps the belief that imitation is a form of flattery has been held for too long. Those who violate copyrights prey upon the good faith of the consumer and without a doubt are at odds with the basic principles of honesty, and “Made in Italy” has been the main victim of this practice. Ever since personal enrichment became legitimate in China (To get rich is glorious!), its potential has been expressed to the limits of the law. This behaviour – well known to the greater public – pale in comparison to the more conspicuous violations that have taken place in recent years. After its first period of industrialization, China has become much stronger economically, and more sophisticated. It is no longer the “Factory of the World,” and its profits now come from more than just the export of low cost manufactured goods. The situation is much more complex, and the interests increasingly more interconnected. Consumption is up and the deviation by the coastal megacities towards excessive luxury is unprecedented; the housing bubble instils great fear due to its size, finance is going down unsanctioned paths, and local administrations are growing independently from Beijing. There is a climate of opacity, of resistance to innovative ideas, of a race to see who can take more advantage of their position of power. Cases of corruption, graft, and illicit gain are the order of the day. The highest levels of the CCP know that this disease could very well prove fatal one day. When it expresses its preference for a “scientific” style, it has in mind the very virtues that are ignored daily. The CCP’s commission on security and discipline works around the clock. According to the China Economic Weekly, fully 18,487 public officials have been convicted of sending their ill-gotten gains abroad over the last 12 years, taking unfair advantage of their position. The cases have been so widespread that they gave rise to a new, socially recognized figure, the luo guan, a “naked functionary” that sends his family abroad to then send them enormous amounts of money that allow them a lavish lifestyle far from visibility and suspicion in their home country. The title doesn’t do justice to the problem, and the news is full of stories, impossible to suppress, of arrests, massive villas, exclusive education for offspring, and foreign citizenship applications. Ironically, as nationalism grows within the country, there is a corresponding increase of exposure to the rest of the world: fleeing capital, brains, and hope.