January saw some of the worst pollution in China with readings as high as over 800 for PM 2.5.
Reporting on pollution used to be suppressed but since last year the national news has started to report openly about PM2.5.
The satellite pictures in the week after January 12 showed dark clouds of pollution over some major cities, including Beijing, and various shades of grey over the whole of China. This is symbolic of the endemic problem of corruption since both words in Chinese have the character, "". The issue of corruption, just like pollution, has also been increasingly discussed. And since October 2012, the incoming President has been talking about tackling corruption as a major priority in his administration.
It looks like this is being given priority when Wang Qishan, touted as a financial/economic wizard and one of the seven on the NPC, who was expected to take the reins of the economy but was given the "lesser role" of tackling corruption. On closer observation, it is probably not a lesser role as many crimes of corruption involve the transfer of huge sums of money especially outside the country and often through complicated routes. These crimes include money laundering and officials squirreling money away. Since this is an issue which the general public is increasingly unhappy and vocal about (see New York Times), and since stability is an even greater concern in times when the economic growth has been adjusted down from the magic 8%, Wang Qishan does indeed have a grave responsibility. But with his experience and diplomatic relations with international financial institutions and treasury departments, he is actually quite the right man to tackle corruption. (See South China Morning Post)
Xi has also been talking about the responsible use of official power "within the cage of regulations" which relates to corruption. In plain terms, it is known as having a constitutional law to define the powers of the executive, legislature and the judiciary to minimize the abuse of power and having "checks and balances". A good start would be having an independent and competent judiciary, allowing lawyers in the country to do their job, having some kind of legislation to define police powers, removing unauthorized black jails, apart from reviewing the now increasingly talked about, archaic labor camps. See for example: Caixin Online.
If this is the direction Xi wants to take the country, that would indeed be very good news! But it is still a little too early to conclude that there is a genuine intention to make real positive changes with his team of "heroes" or that they will be determined to carry it out! (See my other blog on "Is Xi the modern-day Li Shi Min?")
Image credit: V.T. Polywoda, via Flickr